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There is every chance that Åland’s provincial parliament, the lagting, could vote to reject the EU’s Lisbon Treaty (the replacement for the previously proposed European constitution) causing a constitutional dilemma for Finland. Finland’s parliament, the riksdag (or eduskunta), will almost certainly say yes to the treaty when it comes up for handling there.
Today, there are 10 members of the lagting who have said they will vote no. If 11 should vote against, it would fall. Sceptism towards the European Union has increased in recent times on Åland. Åland wants its own member of the European parliament and the right to speak for itself in the European courts. Mariehamn is also irritated by the EU’s decision to forbid snus sales on the islands and on Åland-flagged ferries (a decision made even worse by the fact it originally arrived in only Finnish and French).
If Åland does vote no, it will give Finland three options to continue:
- Finland can negotiate with Brussels to allow Åland to exit the EU. This would put Åland in a similar position to the Faroe Islands and Greenland which are both Danish territories but outside EU.
- Finland can accept Åland’s decision and not ratify Lisbon – however, this would mean the treaty would not enter into force in the entirety of the union – which would be politically unacceptable to other member-states.
- Finland can negotiate with Åland to reconsider their no-vote. Doubtless, Åland would demand concessions – probably in the shape of their own MEP, something which Finland could deliver by creating a separate election district for just Åland in EU parliament elections. This would not go down well on the mainland though.
Ending up outside of the EU could also present disadvantages for Ålanders. They would probably have the right of freedom of movement (and especially residence and employment) restricted, both for themselves and their goods and capital.
Finland has two official languages; Finnish and Swedish. It is compulsory for all school students to study the other domestic language; Finnish in Swedish-speaking schools, Swedish for the Finnish-speakers. However, since 2005 it has been possible not to chose to take the other domestic language as part of the end of high school examination.
This year, around 13 600 Finnish speaking students have decided they will take Swedish as part of their school graduation exam. That’s a massive decline of nearly 15 % compared with last year. Since the 2005 reform, around a third of all Finnish-speaking school graduation exam takers have chosen not to take Swedish.
This is a worrying trend. In order to be able to offer services to Swedish speakers, the government and authorities need speakers of Swedish. It may be easy to choose not to take it at the time; but what happens later in life when you decide you want to work for the state administration, the police etc?
There are reports that show that the quality of Swedish teaching in many Finnish speaking schools is poor and uninspiring. Swedish needs to be made more interesting and attractive to Finnish speaking students – from an early age – so that the enjoy learning the language. Right now, many may well choose not to take it because of the poor teaching and thought that it might be easier for them to get a better grade in something else. The government needs to take measures to give more funding to Swedish as a school subject and improve the teaching quality. Perhaps a more intensive programme of cooperation could be opened up between Finnish and Swedish speaking schools in this country – and perhaps also Sweden.
This past weekend, the current SDP (Social Democratic Party) chairman Eero Heinäluoma startled his party by announcing that he would not be standing for reelection as his party’s chairman this summer.
Now, the SDP didn’t do well at the last parliamentary election, ending up out of government in third behind the centre-right National Coaltion party and the Centre party. Heinäluoma has said he takes the responsibility for this. Some also say Heinäluoma and the wider SDP have not used golden opportunities such as the recent TEHY nurses wage conflict and current discussions around the state’s company ownership policies to put forward their opposition to the current government’s policies. To put it bluntly, SDP’s profile needs to be raised.
But who to do this? Could it be the SDP’s first woman leader or will the old veteran Erkki Tuomioja finally get his dream job. Yle rung round SDP board members, and it turns out their favourites are Tarja Filatov and Tuomioja. With politics as they are now – all the more image driven, could it be a good move for the SDP to use the chance to renew their image and put a younger leader in. With Filatov, they could perhaps strike that cord. Sadly, 2008 might just be too late for the veteran Tuomioja to finally make it. It would be hard for him to freshen up the party’s image.
Welcome to this first entry in my new blog. Everyone seems to be doing it, so I’ve decided to join the 21st century way of communicating.
I’ve always been politically active and interested in current affairs in both my own country and the wider world. Perhaps living abroad has contributed to that fact. This blog will be a place for me to air my views on the events of the day, predominately those in Finland – but also those global happenings that effect us all. As a Swedish-speaking Finn, this blog will also focus slightly on happenings within Svenskfinland – the Swedish-speaking Finland. We are not a widely known minority outside of the Nordic countries and there is therefore little in English coming out of our community. This will be an extremely small effort to correct that fact. However, I shall attempt not to be to parochial in my writings.
Part of the inspiration for my starting a blog comes from the fact that for about the last 2 years, I have regularly visited a blog published in English by an American living in Finland. On his blog, entitled Finland for Thought, I have contributed regular comments under the signature ‘JG’. Finland for Thought is an excellent site and it’s been very interesting following the author Phil and his guest writer’s thoughts on Finland’s current affairs. I must confess to seldom agreeing with them! But they are thought provoking. It’s fascinating to read about one’s own country seen through the eye’s of those with a less conventional view.
Please feel free to comment on my entries! The more audience (should there even be one!) participation, the better!