The Åland Islands are a demilitarized and autonomous province of Finland. The province has its own flag, licence plates, stamps and top-level Internet domain (.ax). The Åland Islands are situated between Sweden and Finland, in the northern part of the Baltic Sea.
Currency: Euro (€)
Time: GMT +2
Total area: 6,787 km2
Islands: more than 6,700 Inhabited islands: 65
Special Status in the EU
The Åland Islands have had a special status in Europe since 1921. They are an autonomous, Swedish-speaking region of Finland. After two separate referendums and after Åland's parliament gave its consent, Åland joined the EU in 1995, together with Finland, on the condition that Åland's relationship with the EU would be regulated in a special protocol.
The islands are demilitarized in the sense that no fortifications or permanent military structures are allowed in the area. They are neutralized, meaning that no war operations may take place there. The inhabitants of Åland have the right of domicile (regional citizenship), which, among other things, exempts them from military service and assures them of exclusive rights to own real estate.
In practice, Åland functions almost like an independent country. It has its own parliament (Lagting) with its own political parties and government (Landskapsregering). There are certain areas related to internal affairs in which Åland has the right to make its own decisions, such as education, health services, media, etc.
Åland has had its own flag since 1954. The province has been a member of the Nordic Council, in which all the Scandinavian countries are represented, since 1970.