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Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


Finland

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TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Scores: 4 4.5 4.5


1. Federal or quasi-federal territorial autonomy

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • Finland is a unitary country, but special laws protect the autonomy of the Åland islands, where about 25,000 Swedish-speakers live (or 95 percent of the population of the islands).
  • Åland’s autonomy was ensured in 1920 by the Act on the Autonomy of Åland. It was modified in 1951 and 1993 to transfer additional areas of competence and authority to the islands. This autonomy is further secured by section 120 of the Constitution of Finland.
  • This regional autonomy gives Åland the right to legislate its internal affairs and to vote on its regional budget. The inhabitants of the island have their own parliament (Ålands lagting) and government (Landskapsregeringen) (Landskapsregeringen & Ålands lagting 2004). Regional citizenship and eligibility to vote in local elections are reserved for people permanently residing on the islands (Eriksson 2007).
  • The powers and competencies of the state and of Åland are divided, not delegated. Laws affecting the islands’ status are subject to adoption by Ålands lagting (parliament), which gives the region’s autonomy very strong legal protection (ibid.).
  • On the mainland, Finland’s language policy is based on the division of the territory into unilingual (Finnish or Swedish) or bilingual communes in order to ensure that both linguistic groups can receive services in their own language on an equal basis. These divisions can change every decade according to the proportions of Finnish- and Swedish-speakers in the population (Sjöholm 2004).
  • Changes made to the Constitution of Finland since 2000 have not substantially modified the status of Swedish-speakers.

2. Official language status, either in the region or nationally

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • For a long time, Swedish had predominance over Finnish as the state language. After the independence of Finland from Sweden, Swedish remained the language of the Finnish administration for half a century, and Finnish was recognized as an official language only in 1863 (Swedish Assembly of Finland 2002).
  • The Constitution of Finland (1919) establishes that Finnish and Swedish are the two official languages of the country. According to Section 17 of the constitution, every citizen has the right to use either of these languages in its communication with the state.
  • The Language Act of 1922 (amended in 2004) regulates a wide range of public services for both official languages communities, based on the division of municipalities into unilingual and bilingual authorities: the language rights of an individual and “the use of each language in administration and in the courts of law depend on the linguistic character of the administrative district” (Swedish Assembly of Finland 2002, 6).
  • On the mainland, 6 percent of Swedish-speakers live in official monolingual (Swedish) municipalities, and 79 percent live in official bilingual municipalities.
  • The Act on Autonomy of Åland states that Swedish is the only official language of the islands and for all official communication between the islands and the Finnish state. Moreover, a satisfactory knowledge of the Swedish language is a requirement for a Finnish citizen to obtain regional Åland citizenship (Landskapsregeringen & Ålands lagting 2004).
  • Overall, the official status of the Swedish language in Finland has been constant for almost a century.

3. Guarantees of representation in the central government or on constitutional courts

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • The 200 members of the Parliament of Finland are elected in each constituency on a proportional basis. In addition to the 14 constituencies of mainland Finland, Section 25 of the constitution (1919) guarantees that the Åland islands shall form their own constituency and elect one representative.
  • There is no Finnish Senate or equivalent.
  • The Swedish minority residing on the mainland does not benefit from any guaranteed representation in the central government, even though most governments have included Swedish-speaking ministers from either the monolingual Swedish People’s Party or some of the bilingual parties (Swedish Assembly of Finland 2002).
  • The concept of a constitutional court is not included in the constitution, but this role is played in practice by the Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament of Finland; there are, therefore, no guarantees of representation for the Swedish-speaking minority (Parliament of Finland 2010).
  • There have been no major changes in the last decade.

4. Public funding of minority-language universities/schools/media

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 1 1

Evidence (education):

  • The decision of the League of Nations to extend Finland’s sovereignty to the territory of Åland in 1921 came with a guarantee that Swedish would stay the language of instruction on the islands.
  • The Act on the Autonomy of Åland (1920) grants the islands full autonomy regarding education. Section 40 states that “the language of education in schools maintained by public funds or subsidised from the said funds shall be Swedish,” but an Ålandic municipality is free to provide Finnish language instruction.
  • On the mainland, Finland’s territorial language settlement means that a Swedish school system exists in parallel to the Finnish one (Sjöholm 2004). Parents have the right to choose the language of instruction for their children.
  • As much as 98 percent of Swedish schools are publicly funded through a combination of state and municipal investment (Ostern 2001).
  • Swedish is a language of instruction at all educational levels, mostly at unilingual (Swedish) schools, but sometimes at bilingual schools. University level education is also provided in both Swedish and Finnish (Finnish National Board of Education 2009).
  • With regard to the funding of education in Swedish, language rights are well established in Finland and no changes have been noted in the past decade.

Evidence (media):

  • The Act on Yleisradio Oy (1993, amended most recently in 2005) defines the service provisions of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, the state-owned and publicly-funded broadcasting company. Section 7(4) of the act states that Finnish- and Swedish-speaking citizens should be treated on equal grounds with regard to the public provision of media.
  • The Finnish Broadcasting Company maintains two Swedish television stations that broadcast about 1,000 hours of Swedish-language programming per year. It also operates two radio channels broadcasting fully in Swedish. Since 2001, a Swedish digital channel broadcasts approximately 2,000 hours of Swedish-language programming annually (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 2004).
  • Since 1988 and the signing of an agreement between the national public broadcasting companies in Finland and Sweden, programs broadcast from Sweden are also available in Finland (Swedish Assembly of Finland 2002).
  • The Act on the Autonomy of Åland (1920) gave the islands the right to operate licences for broadcasting. The public service broadcaster in the province, Radio Åland and TV Ab, has operated public service radio and television channels in Swedish since 1996. It also retransmits radio and television channels from mainland Finland and Sweden (Landskapsregeringen & Ålands lagting 2004).
  • While many acts pertaining to the broadcasting industry have been introduced or amended in the past decade, they have not substantially modified the regulations in place with regard to Swedish media.

5. Constitutional or parliamentary affirmation of “multinationalism”

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • There is no explicit affirmation of multinationalism or the recognition of the Swedish minority as a “nation.” Minorities in Finland, including the Swedish-speakers, are described as “language minorities” in most official documents (Suomi.fi 2009).
  • There is no mention of the “national” character of the Swedish-speaking minority in the Constitution of Finland, which however mentions the intention to organize administrative divisions so that the Swedish-speaking populations have an opportunity to receive services in their language.
  • The fact that the Government of Åland has the power to grant (or deny) the right of domicile on the islands, as well as regional citizenship, can be seen as an implicit recognition of the province’s national character, but nowhere has it been made official.
  • According to Eriksson (2007), the inhabitants of Åland do not seek to discuss and negotiate their symbolic status as a national minority, but rather focus their negotiations with the Parliament of Finland on tangible claims.
  • The status of Swedish-speakers as a language minority is well established and accepted and there have been no attempts to change it in the past decade.

6. Accorded international personality (e.g., allowing the sub-state region to sit on international bodies, sign treaties, or have their own Olympic team)

   Partially.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • Foreign affairs and international relations are a responsibility of the Finnish state. However, section 9 of the Act on the Autonomy of Åland entitles the islands to take part in negotiations for topics falling within their sphere of competence. Moreover, the Åland Parliament must consent to the implementation of the terms of an international treaty or obligation that concern matters within the competence of the islands.
  • Åland has been a member of the Nordic Council since 1970; it appoints two of the 87 members of the Council (Landskapsregeringen & Ålands lagting 2004).
  • Åland was an active participant in the negotiations regarding Finland’s accession to the EU, and in 1995 it obtained a special status in the EU as an autonomous region of Finland (Åland Islands Peace Institute 2009). The islands are represented at the EU Committee of the Regions.
  • The islands have had their own flag since 1954, and their own postage stamps since 1984. Their passport also has the words “Suomi,” “Finland” and “Åland” printed in the same size on the cover and, since 2005, they have had their own airline (Landskapsregeringen & Ålands lagting 2004; Eriksson 2007).
  • Åland does not have its own Olympic team, but it is represented in the International Islands Games Association, which comprises 25 teams competing in 14 different sports. The last competition was held in Åland in 2009 (International Islands Games Association 2010).

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