New Island Definition


The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy has provided us with a new definition of the elusive nature of an island, ”being characterised as permanently inhabited with a population of minimum 20, surrounded by saline water, whether or not interconnected by road, power line or any other infrastructure.”

This was created within the context of the ”Islands Initiative” which shall support transition to clean energy on islands.

We most happily acknowledge our European Union has come a long way from its old opinion that an island is not an island if it has fewer than 50 permanent residents, is attached to the mainland by a rigid structure, is less than 1 km from the mainland, or is home to the capital of an EU state.

Thank you Brendan Devlin! It may seem a small step for a European Government official, but it is a giant step for our part of mankind.

Just making sure: basically, an island remains a piece of land surrounded by water.

The island pictured is Kotisaari near to Rovaniemi in Finland, photo Jani Ylinampa. It does not have 20 inhabitants, no electricity, it is in a sweetwater lake, there is a flagpole, a well and a bridge and it is an island and a home to people who deserve our respect and understanding.


  1. Hi Chris. More questions for you from me, if you do not mind me asking..
    Would you be so kind to enlighten me on why was rural municipality of Rovaniemi consolidated with the city Rovaniemi into a single entity on 1 January 2006? As far as I know, there were 50 villages in earlier Rural municipality of Rovaniemi. I can only presume that the decision was made to improve the economy on the regional level with the aim to better connect the rural with urban. On the other hand, does this mean that the rural-urban dynamics are changing or power relationship is changing too? Does rural in this case loses its autonomy in favour or urban development? Or it is something else? What do you think of this?
    Best wishes

    • Dear Zrinka.
      First, I have to tell you Rovaniemi is not an island. It is an inland part of Finland and home to Santa Claus.
      Secondly, the merger of municipalities is part of a Finnish strategy which has been rolled out for some years now, for example when the former island municipalities of Iniö, Houtskär, Nagu and Korpo were integrated into Pargas. The mergers are motivated by administrative savings.
      The definition of an island – which is the theme of this posting – is not linked to whether it is a municipality or not. You may remember that out of Europe’s 2.160 populated islands, prof Baldacchino and myself found 206 who were municipalities
      Kind regards,

    • Hi, again. I might add that there is a distinct trend to merge municipalities in Northern Europe: Estonia is undergoing such a process, Sweden did it 1971, when 2,000 municipalities became 290, Denmark restructured its municipalities from 270 to 98 only ten years ago, and the Åland Islands (where I live) are as we speak entering a merger process (which all municipalities are protesting against). Norway, on the contrary, has stayed on with 434 small municipalities for the last 50 years.

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