Island policy is one of the oldest elements of regional policy in Finland. The Government appointed a long-term committee to address issues relating to islands as early as in 1948. In 1967, provisions on the Island Committee were laid down by decree, and in 1981, the Island Development Act was enacted. The Island Development Programme is a key tool in island policy.
The Island Development Act obliges the State and municipalities to work to secure the means of livelihood and the availability of transport and services on the island areas and to protect their environment. An island comprises masses of land surrounded by water with or without permanent road connections. An island-like area separated by waterways is also considered to be an island.
The Island Development Act obliges all authorities to take account of the special status of islands in their activities. Island municipalities and part-island municipalities receive, for example, additional support in the form of central government transfers to local government in order to secure the availability of basic services. The Island Development Act has also contributed to the development of island traffic, the status of island areas as support and EU Objective areas, and to agricultural aid.