Rights of National Minorities
Five national minorities are recognised in Sweden. These are the Sami (an indigenous people), the Swedish Finns, the Tornedalers, the Roma and the Jews. All of these groups have existed in Sweden for a very long time and are therefore part of Sweden's cultural heritage.
The Swedish policy on national minorities
The aim of the policy is to protect the minorities, promote their participation in community affairs and public decision-making and help keep long-established minority languages alive. The minority languages are Sami, Finnish, Meänkieli (Tornedal Finnish), Romany Chib and Yiddish.
The basis of minority policy is found in National Minorities in Sweden (Government Bill 1998/99:143) and in two Council of Europe conventions: the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (the Framework Convention) and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (Minority Languages Charter). Sweden ratified these conventions in 2000.
The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
This convention deals with all areas of social life such as child care, education at all levels, culture, the media, anti-discrimination and elderly care. The Framework Convention requires one report every five years.
The Framework Convention fot the Protection of National Minorities
The Minority Languages
This charter sets out the right to use minority languages as well as measures to maintain and develop them. As a consequence of its ratification, Sweden is obliged to provide periodical reports to the Council of Europe outlining the measures it has taken to comply with the requirements set out in the conventions. The Minority Languages Charter requires one report every three years.
One of the main objectives of minority policy is to provide support for historical minority languages in order to keep them alive. Three of the national minority languages - Sami, Finnish and Meänkieli - are historically associated with certain geographic areas of the country. For this reason these languages are covered by special regional measures.
Special legislation entitles individual citizens to use Sami, Finnish and Meänkieli in transactions with administrative authorities and courts of law in geographical areas - known as administrative areas - in which these languages have traditionally flourished and continue to be used to a sufficient extent. This legislation comprises a number of municipalities in Norrbotten county. The administrative areas for Sami are the municipalities of Arjeplog, Gällivare, Jokkmokk and Kiruna. For Finnish and Meänkieli, the administrative areas are the municipalities of Gällivare, Haparanda, Kiruna, Pajala and Övertorneå.
The legislation requires municipalities in the administrative areas to offer parents the option of placing their children in preschools where some or all of the activities are conducted in the minority language. The same applies to elderly care services.