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The old phrase seems to be still accurate. Karleby’s future as part of Österbotten seems to have been put into doubt by the Centre party.
The city of Karleby (Kokkola), for centuries an intrinsic part of the Swedish-speaking part of Finland, has voted to cooperate in a northerly direction with the Oulu region in the future. The alternative southern direction towards Jakobstad and Vasa was defeated.
The vote went on the smallest possible margin, 6 to 5. The representatives of the Social Democrats, Left Alliance, Christian Democrats and Swedish People’s Party all voted for an orientation southwards.
All 5 Centre party delegates voted for a northern orientation. They were joined somewhat last minute by the single National coalition party – Kokoomus representative (ironically, another party that has made recent noises that it wants to ‘represent’ also Swedish-speakers). This will mean it will likely be practically impossible for Swedish-speakers in Karleby to receive services in Swedish from national authorities covering the Oulu region – which lacks any other municipality with Swedish as an official language. It also breaks the historical links Karleby has always had with the rest of Österbotten.
This orientation makes a mockery of the claims by the recently founded Swedish-speaking district of the Centre party that Centre is interested in representing the interests of Swedish speakers in Finland. It underlines the real reality; they are happy to get Swedish-speaking votes but rather less willing to do anything for Swedish-speaking voters.
Member of the European Parliament Henrik Lax believes that Finnish politicians are understating the threat that Russia presents. He told yesterday’s meeting of the Swedish People’s Party (Sfp) board that the Georgia-crisis gives serious reasons for Finland to review its position towards Russia.
Lax told the Sfp meeting that people ought to clearly realise that Russia is pursuing a policy of confrontation and not cooperation.
He was critical of the government’s reaction to the turn of events and seemed to also direct criticism at the president of the republic, Tarja Halonen. Lax stated that we should not be putting the Estonians’ conclusions on the events in Georgia into a psychological context. According to Lax, “they have a much more realistic understanding of Russia that we do”. In recent days, Halonen has come under heavy criticism from especially the Estonian media after it had appeared she suggested that Estonia was still suffering from a kind of post-Soviet stress.
Lax said that Finland’s position was in danger of being so naive and uncritical that “we should not be surprised if the word ‘finlandisation’ turns up again [to describe the Finnish position] – both at home and abroad”
Henrik Lax has long taken an interest in Russian affairs, being critical in the past of the Nord Stream gas pipeline project under the Baltic sea – particularly the Nord Stream company’s lack of openness. He will retire from the European parliament at the next election to it.