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On 1 January 2009, much of the western parts of the municipality of Sibbo (Sipoo) was forcibly incorporated in the city of Helsinki. This was against the wishes of the vast majority of Sibbo’s inhabitants, of both language groups. In a referendum, 93,3% voted against being incorporated in Helsinki, with only 5% in favour. Still, the central government voted in favour of Helsinki’s forced annexation of the western areas of the centuries old municipality, with only both ministers from the Swedish People’s Party and one lone Centre minister voting against – in accordance with the people’s will – in cabinet.
Today, 8 February 2012, the government finally released its long awaited proposal for the redrawing of Finland’s municipal boundaries. The government proposes cutting the number of municipalities in mainland Finland from today’s 320 to around 70. The municipal level of government in Finland is responsible for the delivery of many services, including healthcare and schools. It must be said that a reform is necessary: the economic situation in many rural, depopulating, ageing districts is very bad, affecting their ability to offer high quality services. Many small districts are compelled to form municipal joint organs with their neighbouring municipalities in order to provide services such as healthcare, with these being managed by less democratically accountable joint committees rather than the individual municipal councils that are directly and transparently elected by municipal residents. But, the government’s proposal appears rushed and ill thought out and plays little attention to linguistic rights and historical identities.
The government today proposes that Sibbo as a municipality is abolished, either subsumed into a super metropolis of a greater Helsinki or ripped into two and split between two neighbouring unilingually Finnish municipalities. Let’s not forget, that Sibbo was until 2003 a majority Swedish-speaking municipality. It was unilingually Swedish until 1953 and its demographics have only rapidly changed in recent decades due to mass internal migration from the Finnish-speaking interior to locations nearer the capital. Still today it has a strong Swedish minority. In an instance, the bureaucratic municipality reform risks sweeping away centuries of history and diminishing the rights of those Swedish-speakers that live in Sibbo.
But it is not just in Sibbo that linguistic rights are threatened with this reform. One proposal suggests that the northern portion of the bilingual municipality of Sjundeå is hived off and “unilingualised” as it is incorporated with its unilingual northern Finnish neighbours; at an instant, the rights of Swedish-speakers to services in their own language would be removed. In Österbotten, at least five majority Swedish-speaking municipalities would suddenly find themselves in new structures were Swedish was the language of only a third of the population.
Finland has two national languages. For Swedish to live in all domains, there must be administrative structures at all levels that operate using Swedish, including municipalities were the language of administration is Swedish. This would reduce these to barely more than a handful. And even outside of language considerations, this reform places local decision-making further away from the individual citizen.
A better idea would be for the government to consider the model in other countries, such as Sweden, where there are both elected counties and municipalities. The larger county level of government could be responsible for such things as the delivery of healthcare and public transportation, services that are more economically efficiently delivered by a larger body with a larger population base. In such a system, municipalities could remain as smaller units than the huge, faceless, unhistorical entities proposed by the government today. Local identities could remain intact meaning that people would remain engaged with local democracy due to living in districts they identified with.
Pictured: An old sign on the western border of Sibbo. Is the municipality about to go the same way as the region of Östra Nyland that was abolished already on 1st January 2011?
One of the jobs of the new(ish) government is to preside over the reform of Finland’s municipal map. This is important: municipalities deliver around two thirds of the official services used by citizens, with the central authorities of the Finnish state responsible for the other third. Basic services such as social and health care, schooling, libraries, adult education, transport infrastructure and waste removal are amongst those provided at the municipal level. At the start of this year there were 336 municipalities in Finland. Of these, 30 were bilingual (12 with a Swedish-speaking majority, 18 with a Finnish-speaking majority), 3 municipalities in mainland Finland are unilingually Swedish (there are an additional 16 unilingually Swedish municipalities on the autonomous Åland islands). 287 municipalities are unilingually Finnish-speaking. Mainland Finland’s smallest municipality is Suomenniemi in South Karelia with a mere 804 residents, Helsinki is the largest with almost 590 000 inhabitants.
The reform’s aim is to make the provision of service more efficient. Many municipalities are struggling financially, especially under the burden of providing healthcare in society in which people live all the longer. The government has determined new larger municipalities should be formed based on natural “commuting” areas. It is likely that this will be required to be sufficiently larger in population than many existing municipalities and debate is raging across the land in various districts on which municipalities would make the best partners for merger. It is vital that the will of the inhabitants and language is also considered when this takes place. We have already seen ill-prepared reforms of the police and court districts in which ‘unnatural’ districts were created in disregard to existing regional ties, for instance the Swedish-majority province of Österbotten was divided artificially in the police district reform, with the effect of enforcing Finnish-majority districts on it. We have also seen the way the will of inhabitants (both Finnish and Swedish-speaking) of Sibbo/Sipoo were ignored when Helsinki decided it wished to annex the western part of the municipality. Sibbo is now suffering as with the loss of income and inhabitants Helsinki’s forced annexation caused, it is now unlikely that Sibbo will survive the new municipal reforms as an independent entity: indeed, it may even be split up, with bits of it being merged with three different municipalities – truly historical butchery.
It is time now for Swedish and bilingual municipalities to organise themselves so that where mergers are necessary, they consider the best solution for minting Swedish as a living language of administration in Finland, so that Swedish-speaking Finns can also access good quality services in their mother tongue in the future. There is a serious danger that traditional local rivalry between municipalities or head in the sand attitudes based on the misguided dream that this will all blow over will inhibit sensible solutions to be found, and municipalities will be forced into merging with less suitable partners by the central government.
Still, I can not help but think the whole basis of this reform is misguided and rushed. We should be thinking of a more sensible way of managing the services that are currently delivered by municipalities. In an age of expensive medical treatment, is it really sensible for the smallest level of government to have responsibility for the delivery of healthcare? Could we not look to other countries for a better model. For instance, Sweden still has two levels of local government: counties and municipalities. It is the larger counties that are responsible for the delivery of the larger scale services that can not efficiently be delivered at municipal level: for instance, healthcare and public transport. This would work well in Finland. Imagine a newly beefed up county council for the whole of Uusimaa/Nyland, it would easily be able to offer healthcare – and a more integrated public transport system. Municipalities could retain their local identities and still be responsible for a wide range of services such as schooling. There would be no need for most municipalities to have to consider abandoning years of history and local identity by entering into hastily arranged forced marriages.
Kokoomus’ party chairman and finance minister Jyrki Katainen, likely to be Finland’s next Prime Minister if the opinion polls are correct.
Saturday is the final day of campaigning for the political parties and candidates contesting this year’s parliamentary election. Voting will take place tomorrow between 9.00 – 20.00 at polling stations across the country. Although, over 30 percent of the electorate have already voted during the advanced voting period. On election day, voting must be done at the polling station nearest one’s home.
The rise of the True Finns
This campaign has been in many ways the most interesting and exciting for many years. Sadly, largely for unfortunate reasons. It has seen the emergence of the populist nationalist True Finns party of Timo Soini. The party is anti-immigrant and anti-Swedish language. It is against the European Union and the euro, a populist stance to take and an easy vote-winner at a time in which EU financial support is required by several member states in economic crisis. During the course of the last few months, opinion polls have showed that Soini’s gang could take as much as 18-20% of the vote, although they have fallen back slightly in recent days. The True Finns will likely come out of tomorrow’s poll nearly as large as the three big parties, Centre, the national coalition Kokoomus, and the Social Democrats. For a party that won only 4% in the last election in 2007, this must be considered a great success. Sadly, Soini’s True Finns will be the big winners tomorrow. But, I am sceptical as to whether all those voting for the True Finns are actually racists. I suspect many will cast their vote for the True Finns as a mark of mistrust against the established political movements, a protest vote. We have seen party election finance scandals in most of the traditional parties during the last four years. Many who have said they will vote True Finns when asked by opinion pollsters may actually change their mind when faced with the list of candidates at the polling booth. Timo Soini is almost the sole known voice of the party, and he can’t stand in every constituency. Whilst he may even top the poll in the Uusimaa (Nyland) electoral district, voters in other parts of the country will be face with a True Finns candidate list of unknowns. They may just decide to vote for someone they know from another party. Should the True Finns win big, will they enter government? I see it as unlikely. Their beliefs are simply too different from the other likely government parties. Sure, we’ve had coalitions between the conservatives of Kokoomus and Social Democrats before – but they both agreed on fundamental issues such as our European Union membership. The True Finns do not. And, Soini may have a battle on his hands to avoid his party splitting or falling apart during the next parliament. Already there are tensions between the two main blocs within the party; hard-right nationalist members of the racist Suomen Sisu organisation and those members of the former Rural Party. One must also remember that most of the True Finns candidates have little to no political experience. They may find parliament rather boring once they get there.
Turnout in this election is likely to be higher than in the last two due to the less predictable nature of the outcome. The Swedish People’s Party (SFP) has traditionally benefited from a lower turnout, as Swedish-speaking Finns vote in disproportionately higher numbers. This advantage may be rubbed out this time. Although, on the other hand, perhaps even more Swedish-speakers will vote – and vote for SFP rather than other parties – because of the threat of the anti-Swedish True Finns and because of the recently worsened language climate in general.
In the Nyland (Uusimaa) electoral district, SFP should be able to hold onto its three mandates. But, they may well change hands. They party will have difficulty increasing its presence in an electoral district that has seen ever increasing immigration from the Finnish Finland. Kokoomus’ charismatic foreign minister Alexander Stubb may also win a significant number of Swedish-speakers’ votes. He has been campaigning also in Swedish with full page advertisements in Hufvudstadsbladet. The SDP will be hoping that at least Maarit Feldt-Ranta wins reelection, she is likely to do so. This is the country’s largest electoral district, and Timo Soini is on the True Finns’ list. It will be interesting to see whether he manages to top the poll in the district. He faces a strong challenge from the likes of Jyrki Katainen (leader of Kokoomus) and Stubb. Indeed, it will also be interesting to see if the popular Stubb manages to gain more votes than his party chairman.
In Helsingfors (Helsinki), SFP will hold onto its existing seat. It’s unlikely to increase to two mandates. It is possible that Jörn Donner will win more votes than current Europe and Migration Minister Astrid Thors and thus push her out of the next parliament. Donner is likely to appeal also to Finnish-speaking voters in the capital. However, Thors – who has been widely attacked by anti-immigration populists in many parties – may also win support from Finnish-speaking liberals who are appalled at the current populist tone the immigration debate. The SDP’s Jacob Söderman is retiring from parliament and his Swedish-speaking voters will be up for grabs.
In Egentliga Finland (Varsinais-Suomi, Finland Proper), SFP leader Stefan Wallin will almost certainly hold onto his seat.
In Vasa electoral district, SFP will be looking to hold onto its four mandates. It almost certainly shall. However, the popular Vasa politician Håkan Nordman is retiring and he commanded many votes also from Finnish-speakers in his hometown. So, there are lots of votes ‘going spare’ to be won. The Christian Democrats’ Bjarne Kallis is also retiring, and it’s likely that many of his Swedish-speaking voters will abandon the Christian Democrats for another party. SFP may benefit from this. The Swedish-speaking arm of the Social Democrats (FSD) has also campaigned hard in this election. They will be hoping that their chairman, Steven Frostdahl, will win a seat. He may well do. The Social Democrat vote will be helped in the Vasa electoral district by the fact that party chair Jutta Urpilainen is on the candidate list in the region. The Centre party has in recent years tried to establish a Swedish-speaking district, however it has been largely discredited by the erratic actions of its chairman Peter Albäck. Centre is unlikely to pick up more than a handful of votes from Swedish-speaking residents of Österbotten.
SFP is also, for the first time, standing candidates in Lappland and Uleåborg (Oulu). The chairman of the Sami Assembly is standing on the SFP list in Lappland. It will be interesting to see how many votes he manages to gather. It is however extremely unlikely that SFP will win a seat in either district. The party is merely preparing to go national in advance of the new election law coming into force, which is likely to have a 3% minimum threshold for parliamentary representation. As the threshold will be based on the nationwide share of the vote, every vote will be important for smaller parties in the future.
Meanwhile on Åland, the election is likely to be met with weak interest and a low voter turnout. Åland has its own political parties and most decisions are taken locally in this autonomous province. People there will be more interested in elections for Åland’s own parliament later this year. The sitting candidate, Elisabeth Nauclér, who represents the non-socialist parties on Åland, should easily win reelection. She sits together with SFP members in parliament as part of the so-called Swedish Parliamentary Group.
Come back tomorrow from 20.00 Finnish time (17.00 GMT), when I hope to provide a live blog of the results.
Svenskfinland in English has been taking a little (okay, long) break of late. I have simply had too much to do with work and, if I am honest, I lost the urge to blog. But had I been blogging away as usual during the last six months or so, I fear that this blog would not have made happy reading.
The language climate in Finland is becoming ever less tolerant and the position of Swedish risks being so seriously maligned that a future in which it is possible to access public services in one’s mother tongue seems ever more bleak.
Amongst things that have happened in the last few months include the ongoing saga of the orientation of the city of Karleby (Kokkola) in Österbotten. Despite various bodies stating that for linguistic reasons it should be included in the Österbotten region with its state services located in Vasa, the Centre party (led by very vocal support from new Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi) continues to call for its incorporation into the district led by the unilingual Finnish-speaking city of Oulu/Uleåborg. The question seems to have become a matter of stubbornness amongst Centre party members who do not want to back-down even in the face of the Constitution which would seem to make any northern orientation illegal because of the linguistic consequences.
Maternity services at Ekenäs hospital in Western Nyland have closed down despite massive protests by local inhabitants and many, mainly Swedish-speaking, politicians. The municipality of Raseborg, where the hospital is located, has a majority of Swedish-speaking Finns and the hospital was the last in a Swedish-speaking majority area in southern Finland to offer maternity services. Residents of Raseborg will now be forced to travel to hospital in Lojo or Esbo to give birth, where Swedish-speaking service is often hard to obtain. Ludicrously, some Finnish-speaking members of the hospital board covering much of southern Finland suggested that Raseborg residents could travel to Borgå hospital if they wanted to be sure of Swedish service when they give birth – a journey of 153 km taking around 2 hours by car – hardly feasible for a mother entering labour!
The debate surrounding Swedish-language instruction in Finnish-speaking schools heated up during the last six months with debate on its future even making the main headlines in the Finnish-language media. The debate – even in the mainstream media outlets such as Yleisradio and Helsingin Sanomat - continues to use the pejorative term pakkoruotsi to describe the teaching of Swedish, meaning roughly ‘forced/compulsory Swedish’ – strangely one never hears of ‘forced mathematics’ or ‘forced biology’ classes. The debate gained prominence largely because the National Coalition Kokoomus party’s congress voted against the party leadership’s direction on a measure calling for the abandonment of Swedish as a compulsory school subject for Finnish-speakers. The Confederation of Finnish Industry (EK) also called for its abolishment. According to EK, schools ought to offer a broader range of languages instead of compulsory Swedish. This seems to suggest that the teaching of Swedish is an impediment to the learning of other languages, which is of course very strange logic indeed. Learning Swedish is naturally of no hindrance to also learning Russian, German, French, Chinese or any other language. Finland’s bilingualism ought to be a plus for Finnish industry’s competitiveness, especially when Finland is a Nordic country. EK’s reasoning was dealt a further blow when a survey showed that 80% of companies in the finance sector regarded the knowledge of Swedish as a decisive factor when choosing how to employ.
In a move that has the potential to cause the loss of life, reports of a 112 emergency call centre failing to be able to speak Swedish to a unilingual Swedish-speaking caller from Sibbo have again been in the media in recent weeks. Fortunately, the call was not concerning a life-threatening medical condition and the caller was eventually able to pass her phone to a neighbour who spoke good Finnish – but the example shows that authorities are not living up to their legal obligations in even the most serious areas of service-provision. What would have happened if it was a serious condition and an ambulance was not dispatched in time to save a life? Emergency messages to the public that are broadcast on television screens as text have also failed to appear in Swedish in two incidents recently, once concerning a severe fire in the largely Swedish-speaking town of Hangö.
In film-related news, Swedish subtitles have also been missing from many cinema film showings of late with cinema films blaming it on digitalisation. Apparently modern technology means that it’s not possible to do what was quite achievable before – namely to show subtitles in two languages at the same time. A debate has also blown up in the Swedish-speaking press surrounding the new Moomintroll film. The film will premier in Finnish and English with the Swedish-language version to follow only a few weeks later. Given that the Moomintrolls are probably the most famous Swedish-speaking Finns, concern has been raised that this is a sign of ever increasing Finnish-language cultural imperialism in Finland. An attempt to deny that the Swedish language is part of Finland’s culture – even with the now world-famous Moomintrolls, a Swedish-speaking creation.
It is not all bad news, the increasing indifference and lack of understanding for Swedish has raised concern even amongst prominent Finnish-speaking politicians. Elder statesmen Martti Ahtisaari (former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner) and Paavo Lipponen (former Prime Minister) have spoken in favour of Swedish. President Tarja Halonen has also expressed her concern for recent developments.
Pictured: Protesters against the closure of the maternity ward in Ekenäs on the steps of Parliament in Helsingfors/Helsinki.
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.
Centre Party / Kronoby
The chairman of the Swedish-speaking district of Finland’s largest political party, Centre party, Peter Albäck has admitted creating a false profile on the popular Österbotten blogsite Bloggen.fi according to a report from Österbottens Tidning.
Albäck, whose blog is a considerable talking point in local politics in northern Österbotten, created a profile called ‘Mirakelmannen’ (The Miracle Man), supposedly a 27-year-old bilingual law student from Vasa. He then used it to post positive comments to entries on his own blog – particularly those critical to the Swedish Peoples’ Party (Sfp), which is the dominant force in local politics in the largely Swedish-speaking districts of Österbotten. Albäck is hoping to lead the recently formed Swedish Centre Party district to success in Swedish-speaking Finland, where the Centre party has not been a force in the past. To do so, he will need to win votes from Sfp. Albäck´s own blog on the Bloggen.fi website is used by him to pursue his throughts on politics and more often post articles that are heavily critical of SFP. He often makes very harsh reponses to anyone that does not share his ideas, regularly making personal attacks on his opponents. This has, however, made his blog a popular page on the internet – it is, it’s fair to say, far from a dull and dry read!
The bloggen.fi system allows blog-owners to see the IP-numbers of commentators. Albäck’s false identity was revealed when Albäck and ‘Mirakelmannen’ posted remarks on the blogs of other bloggen.fi users with the same IP-number. Although it is technically possible for 2 users to have the same IP-numbers, in one of the comments made under the ‘Mirakelmannen’ fake tag, the Kronoby politician wrote he was in the US where clearly it’s even less likely that another user would have the same Finnish IP-number as that of Albäck’s internet connection.
Just one and a half hours after this revelation by another Bloggen.fi user on their blog, ‘Mirakelmannen’ had deleted his blog entries and left a message stating ´Young and disappointed. Now you can find me on Suomi24 [a popular Finnish-language web portal and discussion forum] where there is nobody from SFP´.
According to the newspaper Österbottens Tidning (ÖT), Peter Albäck made telephone contact with them late this afternoon. ÖT’s reporter asked ´What comments do you have on the allegations that the computers of you and Mirakelmannen both have the same IP-number?´
Albäck responded, ´I have set a trap for them. This is a scandal. If you write something about this, then you are involved too. This is an unbelievable smear campaign that is going on against me´.
The paper reports that Albäck then went on to speak about a conspiracy against him and admitted that Mirakelmannen was an invention. The paper asked him of whom.
´We are several´, Centre’s district chairman replied.
When asked who these were, the politician acused ÖT’s reporter of working for the Swedish People’s Party. He then asserted that apart from 3 (users called) ‘X’, the SFP parliament member Ulla-Maj Wideroos is also involved in the internet plot against him,
´Mirakelmannen has, like a miracle, proved who is behind the plot against me´ said Albäck, according to ÖT’s report.
After these events, it’s hard not to call into question the trustworthyness of the Centre party’s district leader. Not only has he created a fake identity, if ÖT’s quotes are accurate, he has effectively attempted to stifle the freedom of the press. It will remain to be seen what reaction central Centre Party headquarters has on this matter. It would seem strange if they find this sort of behaviour acceptable. It’s also hard not to see how this scandal can not harm the Centre party’s chances of making a breakthrough with Swedish speaking voters in this October’s municipal election. Surely party chiefs in Helsinki will, at least, be embarrased by behaviour like this by a senior party official. Or perhaps it will get missed, as they don’t read Swedish-language papers. Watch this space… the municipal election in Kronoby municipality promises to be particularly tense and exciting!
For those that read Swedish, you can find Peter Albäck’s blog here: http://www.bloggen.fi/riksdagskandidater. The blog of so-called Mirakelmannen can be found at http://www.bloggen.fi/mirakelmannen. Österbottens Tidning’s article on this matter is located here: http://www.ot.fi/story.aspx?storyID=25144
Finland has a way to go yet until we can truly make a claim to being a multi-cultural society. Compared to the vast majority of western European countries, we have had fair less immigration. A contrast that is notable should you travel to our western neighbour Sweden, where more than one in ten persons where born outside of Sweden.
However, the government is now trying to encourage immigration. Just as in other European countries, this is made all the more necessary to fill jobs that Finnish people do not wish to perform. Finnish migration law and services are gradually being improved and reformed largely due to the efforts and leadership of Astrid Thors (sfp), Finland’s minister of migration.
One of the areas of our country that has shown the greatest success and most welcoming attitude towards immigrants is, interestingly, coastal Österbotten. Particularly the rural monolingual Swedish speaking municipality of Närpes has been recognised as the model to follow for integration. Immigrants have been welcomed into the community in a much more genuine and unanimous way than in many other areas of the country. Some have theorised that Swedish-speaking areas have been more accepting of immigrants because Swedish-speakers understand how it is to be in the position of a minority and are thus more accepting. The Swedish Peoples Party SFP is also very favourable in its views on immigration. There was even a line “Too few immigrants” in the last parliamentary election campaign song.
Now the main Swedish language newspapers in Österbotten (Vasabladet, Österbottens Tidning and Syd-Österbotten) have started publishing a regular update of translated news articles of interest to immigrants under the name GIIÖB. The languages are English, Serbian-Croat, Vietnamese and Russian.
Picture of Astrid Thors: Statsrådet, The Finnish government – Lehtikuva Oy/Ab. Second picture: Map of municipalities of Swedish-speaking Österbotten. The area on the western coast from Kristinestad in the south to Karleby (Kokkola) in the north.
A strange ring of light was seen over parts of western Finland yesterday, according to a report from Vasabladet (Vbl). I didn’t notice it from here in the countryside of Nyland (Uusimaa), so I don’t know if anyone elsewhere in the country got to see it.
The phenomenon, a ring of light surrounding the sun, is according to Vbl likely to have been a halo effect that can occur in certain weather conditions. Apparently a halo effect can appear when there is very high cloud made up of ice crystals. The ring effect is created as the light passes through the ice.
This is particularly coincidental for anyone (such as myself) who is currently enjoying following the tv drama series ‘Sthlm‘ (i.e. Stockholm) on SVT Europa (the last episode is on Monday 2.6. at 22.00 Finnish time). Every episode beings with a scene of a sighting of a similar light phenomenon over the present day Swedish capital. When this really did occur over Stockholm on 20 April 1535, the citizens of the capital of the kingdom believed it meant disaster was about to follow. Let’s hope that’s not what follows in Vasa.
First picture: Yesterday’s (real) phenomenon over Vasa, from Vasabladet . Second picture: (Presumably computer generated!) image from SVT’s drama series ‘Sthlm’.
Thursday’s editions of Jakobstads Tidning and Österbottningen will be the last ever issues of each daily newspaper. Jakobstads Tidning has been published from Jakobstad (Pietarsaari) for the last 110 years. Österbottningen, Karleby’s (Kokkola) newspaper, has 125 years of history behind it. From Friday, the new merged newspaper Österbottens Tidning will come out for the first time as a replacement.
Staff of the two newspapers’ production team spent today putting together the last editions of their independent newspapers. Jakobstads Tidning will print a special 52 page edition tomorrow; its last edition coincides with its 110th anniversary edition.
Staff of both newspapers gathered outside their offices in Jakobstad and Karleby at the end of their working day and symbolically lowered the flags bearing their newspaper’s logo. They then raised the new flag of Österbottens Tidning, the first edition of which they will be working on from tomorrow. They then celebrated with champagne.
So, Svenskfinland and specifically northern Österbotten loses two of its daily newspapers from the end of tomorrow. But gains a new voice on Friday.
In other media news, the European Union’s competition directorate yesterday gave its approval for Finland’s subsidies to minority language newspapers. The Finnish state gives grants of support to fund Swedish language news agency services and newspapers with small circulations. Money is also given to activities in the Sami language. Folktinget (The Swedish assembly of Finland) and the Sami Assembly are the bodies that propose to the Communications Ministry which publications should receive state subsidies.
The image is copyright Jakobstads Tidning. It shows JT staff witnessing chief editor Henrik Othman lower Jakobstads Tidning’s flag for the last time.
There’s been a couple of wrangles over what things should be called in Swedish-speaking Finland in the last few weeks.
Firstly the south-western municipalities of Pargas, Houtskär, Iniö, Korpo and Nagu which are merging to form one district at the beginning of 2009 are having difficulty in coming to any kind of agreement as to what to call their new municipality. There have been numerous proposals. The joint committee of decision makers from the five municipalities originally intended their new municipal name to be Väståboland (West Åboland). However, the quasi-government langauge body ‘The research institute for the languages of Finland” recommended that the new entity call itself Gullkrona. Other candidates were Berghamn, Erstan, Östad, Skärgårdsstad and simply Pargas after the largest existing town. The name Pargas was predictably popular with the Pargas town councillors. However, the others can’t seem to form any agreement. The latest suggestion is Havskrona.
The Finance Ministry has clearly got fed up with waiting to hear what the new archipelago municipality will be called. This week it announced that the district has a maximum of 2 more months (until mid-June) to settle the issue otherwise it will impose a decision upon the new municipality. If this should happen, it would be the first time that a municipality has failed to be able to agree on what it should call itself.
The other name debate that has been raging has been in northern Österbotten. There, the daily newspapers Jakobstads Tidning and Österbottningen are merging to form a single paper from 23 May this year. The papers are centred in the two towns of Jakobstad and Karleby (Kokkola), who are traditionally local rivals. Last month the newspapers’ board announced that the new merged newspaper would be called “Norra Tidningen” (“The northern newspaper”). This was met with uproar by the readers of both newspapers, who wrote into the paper’s letters section wondering if they were now living in Lapland. Additionally, the proposed abbreviation “Norran” does not come off the tongue well in the dialects of Österbotten – plus it’s already in use by the Swedish newspaper Norra Västerbotten. So, after continued pressure from the readers (and even a few politicians), the newspapers’ board relented and gave their readership the option to vote between three options; ‘Norra Tidningen’, ‘Nya Österbotten’ (“New Österbotten”) and ‘Österbottens Tidning” (“Österbotten’s Newspaper”). It was announced this week that Österbottens Tidning had won the day convincingly. Something that even the residents of Jakobstad and Karleby could agree on.
Newspaper image copyright Jakobstads tidning/HSS Media ab.