There are 18 regions on mainland Finland. A regional council is the region's statutory joint municipal authority; every local authority must be a member of a regional council. The autonomous province of Åland Islands off the southwest coast of Finland is also a region, but its administration is organised differently.
Each regional council is governed by a regional assembly and a regional board, which is assisted by the staff at the regional council office. The office is run by the regional council director. The staff of all offices totals about 650 persons and the overall budgets are some EUR 50 million, or just below EUR 10 per resident.
The councils have two main functions laid down by law: 1) regional development and 2) regional land use planning. In addition, regional councils have a broad scope of other functions that are determined by the region’s special characteristics.
Regional councils have a key role in overseeing the region's interests. The regional council protects the region's culture and traditions in many ways by networking with the regional stakeholders for promotion of well-being and the economy.
The councils are the regions' key international players and they are largely responsible for the EU's Structural Fund programmes and their implementation. Regional councils represent Finland in the EU Committee of the Regions. The Association’s Brussels office represents local and regional interests in the EU; in addition, many regional councils have their own permanent representation in Brussels. Many regional councils are members of European regional organisations, such as the Assembly of European Regions (AER) and the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR).