In an upcoming report on minority languages the Council of Europe states that Swedish as an official language in Finland is under threat due to officials’ poor Swedish skills and deficiencies in the mandatory Swedish tuition in schools.
Kimmo Sasi of the Finnish Constitutional Law Committee is not surprised by the Council’s findings. He thinks that the matter must be taken seriously.
“We will look into it and try to come up with solutions for the ministry of education on how to deal with these issues,” Sasi told Yle.
The Finnish language laws from 2003 specify that the official languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish. Both languages have the same legal status and authorities in bilingual municipalities must offer their services in either language.
The Council has on many occasions pointed to the difficulty in using the Swedish language in Finland, despite the right to be served in Swedish is stipulated in the Finnish constitution.
Recently the Finnish parliamentary ombudsman ruled that there should be clearer guidelines at health centres as to what information and medical records should be made available in the patient’s mother tongue.
Although the medical records will be allowed to remain kept in Finnish, it must be possible for a Swedish-speaking patient to get access to a Swedish translation.
This followed a demand from the Swedish Assembly in Finland (Folktinget) in 2009 that all medical records of Swedish speakers should be kept in Swedish.
Swedish is a compulsory subject in Finnish schools today, a fact that has been criticised from many sides over the years.
More recently the right wing party True Finns (Sannfinländarna) have been demanding the abolishment of obligatory Swedish in Finnish schools.
The Council of Europe is now recommending that Finland improves the level of Swedish classes in school and ensures services in Swedish for Swedish-speakers.
According to Sasi, the Constitutional Committee will do what they can to give the matter the deserved attention.
“It might not lead to any definite measures but at least it will increase the pressure to do something about it,” Sasi told YLE.
Finland was a part of Sweden until 1809 when the area was lost to Russia.
The country has been an independent nation since 1917.