Finnish Island Wants to Leave EU
From the desk of Chresten Anderson on Wed, 2006-02-08 23:40
The small semi-autonomous Finnish island Åland wants to secede from the European Union. The reason is too much interference from Brussels. The specific aim of the independent Swedish-speaking island is to be allowed to present its case on the tax-free sale of snuff (or snus, a type of smokeless tobacco) before the European Court of Justice.
The European commission has asked that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) declares Finland in breach of EU regulations for letting Åland maintain sales of this kind of smokeless tobacco – forbidden in the EU – on ferries to and from the island. Though Åland is more closely related to Sweden, it is a part of Finland and hence was not included in the opt-out of the snuff ban that Sweden negotiated when the countries joined the EU. Helsinki has wisely chosen to let Åland carry on selling snuff, because otherwise there would have been an outcry. The Swedes would not have joined the EU if they had not been allowed to keep their smokeless tobacco products, which, it should be noted, are substantially less harmful than smoking tobacco.
Åland became a part of Finland in 1921, but retained self-governance over internal matters such as education, culture, healthcare, postal services and police matters, while foreign policy, customs and monetary matters are handled by Helsinki. When Finland joined the EU in 1996, Åland agreed to join on condition that it could keep some of its crucial laws, such as retaining Swedish as the only official language, and having complete demilitarisation of the island. Another matter of importance to Åland was that the waters surrounding the island remain their own – not EU waters – allowing tax-free sales on passenger ferries from neighbouring countries.
Last Monday Britt Lundberg of Åland’s government met with European Commissioner Margot Wallström to explain that if the island is not allowed to plead its own case before the ECJ, then public opinion in Åland will turn against the EU. This may well lead Ålanders, who have had to take a number of bans from Brussels this year, including a recent hunting ban and the overall EU ban on vitamin supplements, to consider leaving the EU.
The view of the Ålanders is that they cannot keep supporting a European treaty without even having a say in matters concerning the island's own interior politics. Given that the waters surrounding Åland are not EU waters it is only reasonable that Åland should be allowed to try the dispute, although it could be argued that since the waters are not EU waters the EU should not have any say about what goes on there. Brussels, however, wants to get its hands on everything.
The key aspect of the issue is the ferry sale of Swedish style tobacco called “snus,” which is a major source of income for the island although it is technically illegal due to the EU ban. An EU ban on moist snuff applies to the whole bloc except Sweden, which has claimed that the use of snus is part of Sweden’s traditional heritage. Åland has declared that the cultural and historical bond with Sweden should make the island state eligible for the same exception. (The sale of smokeless tobacco products also takes place in Denmark – which effectively adopts the same position as the Åland government, that is to ignore it. The Swedish snus can be bought in the main train station in Copenhagen). The Finns who also use snus travel to Åland and Sweden to top up personal stocks.
However, Helsinki has announced that it will side with the European Commission on the matter, which is why the Åland government wants to bring its case before the ECJ. The Finnish state secretary for EU affairs Antti Peltomaaki says that the matter boils down to an interpretation of various EU laws. “Åland wanted snus to be classified as a grocery, like in Sweden. But Finland has decided that for health reasons, the EU ban should be supported.”
However, snus is substantially less harmful than other tobacco products, and hence the health argument should probably go the other way, favoring the use of snus rather than creating more passive smokers. So far no representative from Åland has been called to the ECJ in Luxemburg to be heard in the snus case, because, as Mr Peltmaaki said, it is not allowed by EU law and there is no room for manoeuvring. The habit of not allowing independent, semi-autonomous regions a say in their own affairs is a serious problem in the EU. This will distort the power balance between these regions and the capitals in favour of the national capitals – moving power away from the people. So much for subsidiarity!
Will Åland secede from the EU? The current EU treaties do not have rules on how and if a country can leave the union. The rules are simple and state that “this treaty has been entered for an unlimited time.”
Åland could, at least theoretically, leave the EU by tearing up the accession treaty and “negotiating it in reverse,” but such a ‘secession treaty’ would have to be agreed upon by the other member states – including Finland. However this treaty might have to be negotiated by Helsinki as well, since Ålands foreign affairs are run by the Finnish government.
To date the only similar example of a secession from the EU is when Greenland went from being a full member of the EU, as part of the Danish Commonwealth, to becoming a part of the Overseas Lands and Territories (OLT) grouping in 1985 – so it is not impossible, however unlikely it may seem. But small special regions should pay heed to this case – because its development have implications for them as well (even if they never heard of snus before).
Submitted by JHM on Fri, 2006-02-17 19:57.
A fact: Finland became a full member of the EU on january 1. 1995 along with Sweden and Austria, not in 1996. Also I believe that the last name of Finnish official is spelled Peltomäki(since the author clearly is able to use the scandinavian alphbets). Judging by the tone of the article and by a few misconseptions, the author doesn't have very detailed picture of Åland, its history and of its relationship with rest of Finland.
It would be interesting to see how woud Åland fare without the EU subsidies, particulary those of the farming variety.
Submitted by Another American on Tue, 2006-02-14 07:28.
Just because you don't like what someone says doesn't mean that they have to stifle their rights so you won't become offended.
If you're offended by something, then "Welcome to the USA". Be prepared to be offended by someone or something because that's the way it is and we're not going to change because someone "doesn't like it." And trust me, there are always groups, liberal or conservative, who are trying to ban books, stop the teaching of something they don't like and other things, but in the end they usually fail.
If you don't like something, then find a way to get away from it or advocate against it. I don't enjoy Marilyn Manson's music or the goth lifestyle, so I don't participate with it. See? It's easy. Just don't get yourself involved with it. Advocate against it if you want, it's your right to speak against it and persuade others to not do it. But don't even think that you can stop someone else from saying something that might offend you.
This is the USA and we are prepared to offend anyone who is pretentious enough to think that they should not be offended.
Lake Wobegone, MN
Profane Publication of Cartoons
Submitted by gbhatti on Tue, 2006-02-14 06:19.
There’s always been a limit. Freedom of expression has never been equivalent to transgression. The egregious publication of profane cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (May Peace Be Upon Him) and subsequent claims of justification for this evil act and heinous crime as freedom of expression is definitely shameless belligerence and a show of cunning arrogance.
As a matter of fact, one keeps enjoying the freedom of action as long as one does not infringe on and overstep others’ rights. The freedom of action does not entitle any one to hurt, hit, damage, harm or cause a loss to other fellow humans. In fact, more caring societies extend this protection to animals, trees, and environment thereby putting further limits on human actions and behavior. All that is aimed at preventing bad and rogue behavior of individuals and groups. And a sensible person does not see any exceptions to these norms under the cover of freedom of expression. Once an expression causes a shock for, hurts the feelings of, and insults a population of more than a billion people, it does not attain the sanctity of the right to freedom of expression. Rather, far from that, it becomes a flagrant transgression, which is illegal even in the general code of ethics. More than that, such an action is simply a crime, in fact, an extremely serious one and should be dealt with as such. The blatant publication of these cartoons by many disgraced newspapers and magazines is, in deed, an evil act and an aggression against Muslims’ beliefs that can not be over condemned. It evidently exposes the wide spread and historical hatred of Islam and Muslims deep buried in the sub-conscious of the Westerners. Labeling such a heinous crime of attacking the very foundation of Islamic religion as freedom of expression is an act of intellectual corruption and a double-speak that the Westerners have gotten used to especially when it comes to hate mongering against Muslims and Islam.
If the freedom of expression has absolute limits (as being claimed by shameless officials of some European countries), then why many Muslim clerics have just recently been prosecuted and jailed. The novice argument of incitement is irrelevant here because no one ever stipulated any restrictions under which the freedom of expression could not be exercised. Such restrictions, in fact, can not be defined at all as it will be tantamount to the negation of the very concept of absolute freedom of expression, which is being so fervently insisted upon by these silly criminal elements. After all, the clerics had merely used their right to free speech and actually did not physically attack anyone. Then, why this double standard? This is simply called hypocrisy. And Muslim masses see it clearly and understand it very well. And it is causing wide spread resentment and deep anger in Muslim masses all over the world.
In fact, the existence of anti-Semite laws in the USA and many European countries reflect the glaring cracks, contradictions and duplicity of Westerners regarding the right to freedom of expression. The best selling British historian David Irvin was put behind the bars in Austria just for expressing his views about the Holocaust. Even at present, if a person tries to adventure to exercise his right to freedom of expression in a similar way, these very elements championing the freedom of expression would chase the person like dogs to chew him down. One, however, enjoys complete freedom and full support and blessing if he gets busy in hate mongering against Muslims and Islam. In the current campaign against Muslims, one can clearly see a monstrous movement with its draconian teeth pre-soaked in Muslim blood getting energized by the hate against Islam and readying to unleash on Muslim flush.
For the sake of betterment of humanity, this is the time to really reflect upon the fact where is this beautiful world heading for. A silly person belonging to a particular group introduced an evil concept of civilizational clash a few years ago and sowed a seed of hatred in an otherwise technologically well advanced world. Other cursed satanic people, it seems, are now hell bent over to materialize that evil theory into action and spark an actual clash. One really wonders why can’t nations live peacefully based on the principle of mutual co-existence even after so much progress in education, science, and technology. We all hope that common sense will prevail soon, human life, dignity and honor will be respected regardless the differences in color, race, or religion. We and our next generations certainly deserve the best of human values learned so painstakingly through human experiences extended over a period of centuries.
Finland want to get out ?
Submitted by roadblock on Sat, 2006-02-11 11:13.
It seems that the peoples of the European Community "united in misery" starts thinking right ... What the heck is Europa ... It's not even a political dream ... For me, Europa was just a way to make and create work post for several 1000 unneeded politics. I think it is the same as Symantec and Macafee. They let create a new virus by some expert and then claim loud out that they are the only one to have the antivirus to kill it.
It's clear that Europa is becoming the greatest fiasco since 1945. In Belgium, the inhabitants of St Vith doesn't get really along with the inhabitants of Malmedy because of their past .... (1st problem) the inhabitants of Liège doesn't get well along with the one from Charleroi (2nd problem) the liège one as well as the Carleroi ones doesn't get along with the one from Namur (3rd problem) and the one from Liège, Charleroi and Namur doesn't get along with the one from Bastogne (4th problem) ! All the one cited before doesn't get along with the one from bruxelles (5th problem) and all these together doesn't get along with the Flammish (6th problem).
That's Belgium ....
Now we have some 1000 prety well payed politics that claims to make things in order not to get this problems solved but they claims to make inhabitans from the south of Portugal going alond 100% with the people of North Finland ...
Take a look at what is working (if you find something) -> Formula one ... Look at this little british jerk guy that just make what he want with big and fat Europa ...
He wishel and they are all running in every direction ...
What do me need a F-1 GP in China ? to give happyness to the reds riche people ? What do we need a GP F-1 in Barhein ?
In the history, the F1 was a reunion for cars manufacturers not a reunion for old very rich people (mostly over 65) driving red ferrari (at least they try) and showing nice girl (mostly at the 17,5 to 20 years old border)...
It's just the same thing like Europa ... Get fat ! take as much as you can because it won't last long ...
I beleive that are our real problems. What do I (we) care about religions and all this kind of jokes ?
Some idiot drawed cartoon in Denmark and some others are yelling almost they guts out ... til one will say that he saw this guy called prophet and he wasn't really looking the same way it was drawed.
I think religion is in someone heart. In the inside and it's something private. What in the heck it this now ? The new kalachnikov religion ...
Why do we need to integrate these people into our society ? Our society is open to anyone that want to get in. Those that are not in ... are just peoples that don't want to get in ...
I think that religion is something that has not to be put outside of a family house. Religion doesn't fit with rockets and with kalashnikovs. Not even with cocktail molotovs.
They don't want Denmark Embassy ... cool ! remove them and close as well their Embassies in Denmark and send the diplomats back home. This is what they want - let's be on the same frequency this time.
Why do we run Embassies in these countries if there is not just (for some fat people from Europa) to makes alot money of these countries.
Now they are restarting the joke in Congo ... To hell with it. We gave enough billions dollars to make roads, houses and and and ... they destroyed anything cutted the Belgian into peaces and the game was over ...
What do I care about Congo ? What do we (belgian) care about Congo ... We will never make a euros on Congo. It will just suck billions and that's all ...
Don't you really think that we have enough troubles in Belgium to starts dealing with all these countries.
We have belgian citizens that die froozed along the roads when it's cold because they doesn't have money to get warm and on the same day, 2 blocks away ... they are firing 150.000 euros to make the sky over Bruxelles plaisant for the "parterre" of well choiced peoples ...
That's problem for me.