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Minority language planning in a growing metropolitan area Björn Sundell 10 December 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Minority language planning in a growing metropolitan area Björn Sundell 10 December 2009."— Presentation transcript:



3 Minority language planning in a growing metropolitan area Björn Sundell 10 December 2009

4 10 December, Magma, Finland´s Swedish think tank Magma´s objective is to identify obstacles, analyse problems and stimulate debate on issues of relevance to the Swedish-speaking minority Magma is a politically independent institute Magma is financed by 5 non-political cultural foundations with an interest in promoting bilingualism and the Swedish language in Finland

5 A little big country in the north 10 December,

6 Facts and history Finland has a population of 5,3 million 4,8 million speak Finnish as mother language, Swedish and speak various other languages The Finnish and Swedish populations have lived in Finland for more than 800 years Finland was a part of Sweden until 1808, then conquered by Russia and ruled by Russia for 108 years, independent since December,

7 Venice or St Petersburg?

8 The minority is spread out 10 December,

9 Legal status According to the constitution, Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish This means that both language groups are, in principle, equal. The law is written in both languages, basic and secondary education is offered in both languages in certain regions, state and municipal officials should (where relevant) speak some Swedish Swedish is a compulsory language in Finnish schools (basic knowledge) One region, the Åland Island has been granted autonomy 10 December,

10 Problems in real life Circumstances differ from one part of the country to another Finns usually do not want to learn Swedish Therefore, most civil servants (state and local), cannot communicate in Swedish. Nor can most people in the health services. Promises granted by the law cannot be fulfilled 10 December,

11 The south coast and the greater Helsinki area 10 December,

12 The south coast Many separate municipalities with elected local councils. Independent local authorities. Large area – 250 kilometers from east to west Big language variations: Tammisaari-Ekenäs has 80 % Swedish speakers, Siuntio-Sjundeå has 38 % and Lohja-Lojo has 4 % 10 December

13 The Greater Helsinki Area Total population 1,3 million (6.2 %) speak Swedish 14 municipalities with separate elected local councils Some very urban, some industry-based, some quite rural Big language variations between 14 municipalities Sipoo-Sibbo and Kauniainen-Grankulla have 39 % Swedish speakers, Helsinki-Helsingfors 6 %, Vantaa-Vanda 3 %. The number of immigrants was low until 1998, but it is now rapidly rising 10 December

14 Immigration on the rise in greater Helsinki region 10 December,

15 The challenges Increased immigration will change language priorities. Economic crisis will cause very big cuts in expenditure. Schools and hospitals will be merged or closed. Administrative staff is reduced. Public services are cut. This very much affects services in the Swedish language. No Finnish phenomenon. The same trend will be seen all over Europe where minority interests are at stake. 10 December

16 The challenges Cooperation between the 14 municipalities will increase Some municipalities will merge, but which and how we do not know yet Many municipalities fight hard for their independence as the government pushes for larger units and mergers Our strategy is to analyse all possible alternatives and the effects on the language minority 10 December,

17 The starting point is quite good We have an excellent educational system for both language groups (Finland tops the PISA comparisons) There are private cultural foundations which support cultural activities and books & digital material for educational purposes The public sector in Finland is one of the less indebted in Europe Street signs in bilingual cities are bilingual There is public service TV & radio in Swedish and private newspapers 10 December,

18 ...but the outlook is not good Cuts in public services hit the Swedish population TV &radio & newspapers presently face big losses and cutbacks Increasing hostility among the Finnish majority (politicians and ordinary people) towards the minority Forthcoming mergers between municipalities cause great uncertainty Proposals to merge Finnish and Swedish schools cause alarm 10 December,

19 What are we The Swedish speaking minority is not Swedish by nationality. We are Finns who speak Swedish. In a football game between Finland and Sweden Swedish-speakers in Finland will, without hesitation, support the Finnish team. 10 December,

20 The strategy When it comes to mergers in the metropolitan area our strategy at Magma is to analyse all possible alternatives and the effects on the language minority. In October a new report was published We also conduct opinion polls in order to get a feel for what is possible and what is not (Monitoring support & opposition & general attitudes among both the majority and minority) We conduct studies on various subjects regarding the effects of ongoing structural change 10 December,

21 I think that the Swedish language is an important feature in the Finnish society Opinion poll conducted in Nov

22 October 2009 The status of the Swedish language in the metropolitan area A Magma-report on the alternatives facing the minority, some people in 14 municipalities, in the greater Helsinki area. Published in October 2009

23 The report contains: -- a worst case scenario from a minority point of view - the best alternative - suggestions for good minority solutions regardless of which municipalities are merged (pilot project proposals, cross-border solutions for the minority, web site) - estimates on possible changes in the political structures - challenges regarding education and health care 10 December

24 Efficiency and cost-saving arguments lead to reduced Swedish services In the 10 December

25 A minority with many organisations SFP, The Swedish People´s Party is reacting fast to any political proposals that harm the minority. SFP has been in the government for decades. Folktinget, the Swedish Assembly, participates in the law-drafting process. It monitors political decisions and issues statements if they discriminate against the minority. Folktinget also supports individuals who feel discriminated. Several cultural foundations, such as the Swedish Cultural foundation, support projects, both small scale (individuals) and large (groups, educational material, media). Based on private donations. 10 December,

26 The opposition Hate campaigns, especially on the internet. No self- control on the net. Certain politicians have their own counterstrategy or hidden agenda. They gain support from their electorate through populistic proposals and measures - The case of the city of Kokkola/Karleby - The closing of Ekenäs Maternity Hospital Pure indifference or ignorance 10 December,

27 Need for fast reaction 10 December

28 10 December Can we win or are we losing the battle at a time of heavy cost cutting?

29 Our task Some political proposals are very much ad hoc – reactions to the need to save money and costs. Therefore we as a minority often have to react suddenly, in an ad hoc way. We have to act fast. Apart from fast reaction to perceived threats we need good strategies based on solid research. We need a long-term approach. Vision December

30 Our message Our message to the majority is not just that you have to grant us the services we are entitled to. As a minority, we shouldn´t just demand and complain. We can be constructive and offer pilot projects and ideas that are useful to the majority. At Magma we try to underline the fact that modern metropolitan areas are multicultural. Monolingual solutions do not foster innovation or creativity which are the landmarks of thriving metropolitan regions. We will always emphasize that we, the Swedish-speaking minority, are the gateway to Scandinavia. The gateway aspect is our great advantage. 10 December


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