Former Social Democrat, President and 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari has encouraged all Swedish-speaking Finns to use Swedish as much as possible in their contact with Finnish speakers, reports the (Finnish) Swedish Press Service news agency in Borgåbladet.
Ahtisaari’s comments come a day after he wrote a debate article in the capital’s main Finnish- and Swedish-language newspapers, Helsingin Sanomat and Hufvudstadsbladet, calling for the strength of Swedish to be strengthened. Ahtisaari was critical to recent developments which have weakened the status of Swedish in Finland and towards the decrease in functional bilingualism amongst Finnish-speaking Finns. Ahtisaari underlined the importance of knowledge of Swedish as an anchor for Finland’s Nordic identity. The former president proposed that Finnish-speaking students should start Swedish classes earlier in their school career, saying that starting during puberty in their seventh year of school as they do today was not a good thing for their attitude towards the language. Ahtisaari believes Swedish lessons should start at the primary level of education.
It is notable that Social Democrats can be perhaps be said to be amongst the most prepared to stand up for Swedish amongst Finnish-speaking politicians. Current President of the Republic Tarja Halonen has also spoken out in favour of Swedish. Former Prime Minister and Parliament speaker Paavo Lipponen also has actively promoted Swedish teaching through his involvement in the organisation Svenska Nu. Perhaps Finland’s Swedish-speakers would be better off with a government involving the SDP rather than Matti Vanhanen’s Centre party, who seem intent in breaking down Swedish structures wherever they can.