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The Åland Islands Meet European Integration : The Politics of History and the EU Referendums

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Title: The Åland Islands Meet European Integration : The Politics of History and the EU Referendums
Author(s): Akintug, Hasan
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in European and Nordic Studies
Specialisation: Social Sciences Study Track
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2017
This thesis aims to provide an analysis of the decision of the Parliament of Åland to join the European Union in 1994. The chosen time frame is the period between the Korfu Summit on 24 June 1994 and the decision of the Parliament to join on 2 December 1994. While the EU process has its roots at the end of the Cold War and Finland’s membership to the Council of Europe in 1989, this timeline is chosen to emphasize the deliberative process in which Åland decided to join the European Union. The theoretical approach is discourse analysis as foreign policy analysis by Ole Waever. This rests on the post structuralist understandings of language which due to its constitutive power can be used to explain the foreign policy choices which lie upon historical and identarian legacies. This is done by analysing the relationship between the “core concepts” such as “state” and “nation” with “Europe” in which the national identity is constructed upon. This thesis aims to analyse the Ålandic decision to join the EU by using 7 parliamentary debates as primary data alongside newspaper articles to construct a chronology of the referendum process while at the same time adjusting Waever’s framework to suit the regional context of Åland. This study shows that the Ålandic EU debate took place in a context in which the Regional Parliament had to consider the choices of its immediate environment and the lack of enthusiasm of the Ålandic voter. On the pro EU camp, the prospect of EU membership was understood as new field for Åland’s external relations, an economic opportunity and further recognition of Åland’s status according to international law. The anti-EU camp drew arguments from a fear of centralisation, transferring legislative authority and concern regarding the competences of the EU in agriculture and fisheries. This study also shows that the choice of certain arguments was structured by the regional parties’ conceptualisation of Europe and the relationship between that and their conceptualisation of “autonomy” and the “people” which are in turn constructed by the two main cleavages on Åland: the autonomy policy cleavage and the urban-rural cleavage.
Keyword(s): European Integration Åland Autonomy Paradiplomacy Discourse Analysis

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