Last week Chresten Anderson wrote a piece on this website about the tiny island of Åland (actually a group of islands, as one of our readers pointed out) that is rebelling against the European moloch in Brussels. The Daily Telegraph sent its Brussels correspondent David Rennie to Mariehamn, Åland’s capital. He reports about the case in today’s paper. The rest of the European mainstream media have yet to awaken to one of the major news stories of the coming months.
Åland’s 26,000 citizens, who speak Swedish but live on a Baltic archipelago that is a self-governing region of Finland, have the right to veto any international treaty that Helsinki considers entering into. They intend to wreck the European Constitution because the EU wants to prevent them from consuming “snus” (chewing tobacco).
As David Rennie writes, the EU has brought upon itself. Now Åland “is about to teach Brussels a lesson in democracy it may never forget.” Snus, though it is a smokeless tobacco which causes no harm (certainly not to bystanders), is outlawed everywhere in the EU except in Sweden and Åland. Stockholm secured a snus opt-out when it joined the EU in 1995, while the Ålanders are sovereign masters of their own health legislation – over which Helsinki has nothing to say.
Last year the Eurocracy in Brussels decided to take Finland to court over the snus consumption of the 26,000 Ålanders, disregarding the fact that Finland has no power to change Åland’s snus law. The archipelago, however, is not allowed to defend its law before the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg because the ECJ recognises only nations. The court is going to fine Åland, but the islanders have not been allowed to plead their case. This has really angered them.
Åland’s head of EU affairs, Britt Lundberg, told Mr Rennie: “Every Alander is very, very upset. It’s the principle of the thing that we can be judged, made to pay a fine, but have no chance to tell the court in Luxembourg why we made our law, and that we have the sole right to make this law.” Åland’s Prime Minister, Roger Norlund, said: “Aland finds small-scale solutions to its problems. But the EU model is one of large-scale solutions, and harmonisation.”
The Ålanders can, however, make the Eurocrats pay very dearly for their disrespect of Åland’s autonomy. While at first they considered seceding from the EU altogether (which they might still do if Brussels keeps harassing them) they have now decided to prevent Finland from ratifying the European Constitution. The Constitution has been moribund since it was rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands last year. When the Constitution was voted down by France and the Netherlands, both belonging to the group of the original six members that founded the EU in 1957, the ratification process in other member states was suspended.
The Eurocrats, however, are intent on reviving the zombie Constitution and have worked out a coordinated plan to do so. The plan involves Austria, the current president of the rotating EU presidency, as well as Finland and Germany, who will preside the EU Council in the second half of 2006 and the first half of 2007 respectively. It is part of the plan that Helsinki by ratifying the Constitution later this year gives the constitutional process the momentum needed to allow the Eurocrats the opportunity to force a new referendum on the French and the Dutch in 2007. The Ålanders, however, are saying: “No snus, no Constitution.”
In doing so, they prove that they have more guts than the Flemings. The Flemish Parliament approved the EU Constitution last Wednesday. The Belgian Constitution requires that not only the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, but also the parliaments of the country’s different regions (Dutch-speaking Flanders, French-speaking Wallonia, and bilingual Brussels) ratify the Euro-Constitution. While the federal parliament and all the other regional parliaments voted in favour of the European Constitution months ago, the Flemish Parliament (also located in Brussels) had been postponing the vote. The Flemish secessionist and Euro-sceptic Vlaams Belang party (VB), which is the biggest group in the Flemish Parliament, tried to delay the vote as long as possible in order to embarrass Belgium’s Euromanic Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who wants the Kingdom of Belgium to become a bigger Belgium called Europe.
Had Belgium been the third of the original six EU members to be unable to ratify the Constitution, the monster would have effectively been killed. On 8 February, however, the Flemish Parliament approved the Constitution, with only the VB voting against ratification. Apparently the 6 million Flemings did not have what it takes to stand up, like David, to the EU Goliath. Fortunately, the 26,000 Ålanders have been cast in a different mold.