Folktinget gav följande kommentarer (endast på engelska).
To the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe
VIEWS ABOUT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS
In its fifth evaluation report on Finland (2018), the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe made four recommendation for immediate action to the Finnish authorities. The following two concern the Swedish language:
2. take further measures to ensure the accessibility of social and health care in Swedish.
4. take measures to increase awareness and tolerance vis-à-vis the regional or minority languages of Finland.
In accordance with the monitoring procedure of the Charter, the Finnish authorities have submitted information on the implementation of the Committee of Experts’ recommendations (Information by the Government of Finland on the implementation of the recommendations for immediate action under the Charter, 3 March 2020). The Swedish Assembly of Finland (hereafter Folktinget) would like to submit the following views on the implementation of the recommendations to the Committee of Experts.
2. Take further measures to ensure the accessibility of social and health care in Swedish
In the information on the implementation of the recommendations, the Finnish Government mentions the Government Programme of Prime Minister Marin, which in our view is indeed satisfactory concerning the protection of linguistic rights. When it comes to ensuring the accessibility of social and health care, the Government Programme does include important statements and goals. In the information text, the Government points out that the Programme notes that disability services will be secured for Swedish speakers. We appreciate this since there is a lack of several disability services in Swedish. However, we are concerned that social and health care for other vulnerable Swedish speaking groups, such as various types of addiction services, mental health services, child welfare services, services for elderly with memory disorders etc. does not get the same attention. The number of Swedish speaking persons that rely on these types of services is not always high enough for the bilingual municipalities to be able to individually produce the services. Also, there is not enough Swedish speaking experts or personnel working within this area of expertise in every bilingual municipality. To secure a broader population base and get access to Swedish speaking expertise, there is a need for more cooperation between bilingual municipalities. We are hopeful that this is taken into consideration in the ongoing reform of the social and health care structures. If the reform enters into force, the responsibility for health and social services as well as rescue services will lie with counties that are significantly larger than municipalities. There will however also be a need for cooperation between bilingual counties to secure access to services in Swedish.
Despite a good Government Programme, there will be challenges in implementing it in practice and to improve the access to social and health care in bilingual municipalities, hospital districts and, in the future, counties. Folktinget’s own language protection operations (in addition to the reports mentioned in the information text) show that there are still continual deficiencies in the access to social and health care services in Swedish. As the Government states in the information text, problems usually appear in municipalities with a small Swedish speaking population (less that 20-30 % of the total population).
Due to these deficiencies, it is crucial that municipalities, hospital districts and counties undertake structural and systematic planning of the social and health services for Swedish speakers, as well as review the recruitment processes and language skill requirements.
In its information text, the Government stated that in autumn 2018 the Emergency Services Academy Finland launched an 18-month course to train Swedish speaking emergency response centre operators to improve the availability of emergency response centre services in Swedish. Folktinget finds that this was a successful programme which resulted in 12 new bilingual (Finnish-Swedish) emergency response centre operators in Vaasa in Ostrobothnia. There is however still a lack of Swedish speaking operators in southern Finland, and the Emergency Response Centre Administration has stated that a similar educational programme needs to be organised also in southern Finland.
4. Take measures to increase awareness and tolerance vis-à-vis the regional or minority languages of Finland
In addition to the information given by the Government, Folktinget would like to emphasise the importance of the role of the Government and its authorities in showing awareness and tolerance regarding the Swedish language. It is important that the Government in its everyday actions shows that the Swedish language and the Swedish speaking population is a natural part of Finnish society.