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Åland celebrates 100-year anniversary of demilitarisation

President Niinistö said the demilitarisation of Åland remains important for continued stability in the Baltic Sea region.

Itsehallintoa juhlittiin 8. kesäkuuta 2011 Image: Str / Lehtikuva

The Åland Convention of 1921 remains an important agreement for ensuring stability in the Baltic Sea region, President of Finland Sauli Niinistö said on Wednesday at a ceremony celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Åland Non-Fortification and Neutralisation Convention.

"The Åland Convention is a stabilising force for peace in the Åland Islands. It is not a historical relic, but a living entity and a much-needed agreement for the Baltic Sea region," said Niinistö.

October 20 marks the centenary of the signing of the treaty on the demilitarisation and neutralisation of Åland by the member states of the League of Nations, in which Finland was also to guarantee the tradition of the Swedish language, the island's local culture and its system of self-governance.

The question of Åland's autonomy nearly resulted in an open conflict between Finland and Sweden more than a hundred years ago, as cited by Niinistö in his speech.

"I am happy to note that an issue that was once in danger of generating conflict has been successfully solved in a manner that is favourable to all," Niinistö said, adding that the Åland Convention has a strong foundation in international law and Finland continues to work to ensure that the international system that supports the agreement remains strong in the future as well.

Bad weather prevents the president from attending in person

Deputy Minister for the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Robert Rydberg and Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Green) also spoke at the event. Topics included the international importance of demilitarisation, European defence and the security of the Baltic Sea.

President Niinistö and Foreign Minister Haavisto were unable to make it to Åland because of bad weather, instead delivering their speeches virtually.