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Finland/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.5 Language issues and policies

It is customary to speak about the Swedish-speaking Finns as a minority, although the basic ideology of nation building was that Finland has two parallel Finnish cultures, one based on the Finnish-language and the other on Swedish. The rights of the Swedish-speaking population are guaranteed in the newly (1999) re-codified Finnish Constitution and further enacted by a special Language Act, which, together with some special laws, provides for equality in the official (administrative, court) use of the native language and access to education and public careers. A special issue has been the "compulsory" teaching of Swedish as a second native language in primary and secondary education. The Language Act, as well as the Sami Language Act – providing for the right to use Sami as an official language in the Sami homeland area, were revised in 2003 and enacted in 2004. Sami is the only recognised indigenous culture in Finland. In the Parliamentary elections of April 2011, the issue of compulsory Swedish language learning at schools was again brought to the fore.

Besides the Sami, the Constitution gives a special position also to the Roma people and to the users of sign language, and guarantees all three groups the right "…to maintain and develop a  language and culture of their own". The rights of these minority groups are also enshrined by the international conventions, especially by the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for the Protection of Regional or Minority Languages.

Chapter published: 25-04-2017

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