The Minister of Justice, Tuija Brax (a member of the Green party), announced her proposal for the reform of Finland’s court districts. Their number is to be reduced by nearly half meaning a geographical redrawing of the map. Many had feared that this would be very bad for the status of Swedish in the court system, with most rumours suggesting that the proposal wouldn’t make any proposal for any Swedish-language majority court districts in the whole mainland. (Today there are three).
However, Minister Brax has proposed that the district for Österbotten with its administration in Vaasa/Vasa maintains a Swedish-speaking majority, encompassing the whole territory of the Österbotten region. Even Kristinestad and Jakobstad will maintain a courthouse, although their local court administration offices will close. The city of Kokkola (Karleby) with a Swedish-speaking minority was feared to be transferred to the jurisdiction of the high court in Rovaniemi, but will stay under Vaasa with new provisions to guarentee Swedish service.
The Pargas court district in Åboland and Raseborg court district will become parts of Finnish majority districts. However, new legal provisions will be put in place to ensure their is a separate unit to offer service in Swedish in the office in Turku/Åbo which will in future also be responsible for the Pargas area. Raseborg will also have its administration in the strong Swedish-speaking majority town of Ekenäs rather than the largely Finnish-speaking Lohja as was originally planned.
Minister Brax’s proposal has come to the relief of many who feared it would go much worse. Clearly, lobbying by Folktinget and Sfp has helped. Also, I don’t think we should forget to thank Brax herself. She has spoken very elegantly on the radio and television about the needs of Swedish-speakers, especially in judicial matters, to be able to access services in their mother tongue. Clearly she understands the needs of the minority far, far better than our Interior Minister Anne Holmlund (a member of the conservative Kokoomus party). Holmlund could learn a lot from minister Brax!
(Picture source: Lehtikuva Oy/Statsrådets kansli)