THE ÅLAND OFFICE IN BRUSSELS An analysis of its channels of influence
This thesis is a case study of the Åland office in Brussels that sets out to analyse its extra-state and intra-state channels of influence in use in order to influence European policy- and decision-making and at the same time try to shed light on how the Åland office circumvent and, on the other hand, work in tandem with the central government of Finland. In this respect, the bypass-theory of the multi-level governance approach will be used to understand and analyse these regional paradiplomatic activities both without the state and in tandem with the state. This approach will offer elaborate insights into how the Åland office use various channels of influence, including lobbying and interregional organisations and networks. In the end this study will find that the Åland office is able to bypass the central government by: lobbying and creating influence in the European Parliament; forwarding the positions of the Åland Government to relevant political players and EU-institutions, organizing or taking part as speaker in seminars or conferences; forming direct (both formal and informal) contacts and dialogue with officials at the Commission; creating and using ad-hoc groups/networks/alliances with cooperating partners; organizing and setting up official meetings with high-profile officials and politicians; promoting certain important political goals, values and activities of the Åland Government and the Åland community at the wider EU-arena; informal advocacy work at an early stage; trying to get access to new important forums at the EU-level; cooperating with specific industry interest organisations; and membership and engagement in European networks. On the other hand, the Åland office work in tandem with the central government by: cooperating with Finnish MEPs and actors supporting the positions of the national government; accreditation to the Council, with all its informal and formal advantages; presenting positions and taking part and engaging in meetings in the Council and other EU-institutions (the latter if in cooperation with officials from national authorities); cooperation between Åland and Finnish officials at the EU-level; and influencing the national political agenda in the Council. Finally, the thesis concludes that the extra-state channels in use of the Åland office in Brussels - being less-institutionalized, more policy-specific cooperation – rather complements formal intra-state mechanisms of cooperation and interest representation than the other way around.