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Sweden: Changes to Law on National Minorities and Minority Languages Take Effect

(Jan. 28, 2019) On January 1, 2019, provisions expanding rights and protection for Swedish national minorities and minority languages took effect. The new provisions provide that minorities have a right to both elder care and preschool in their native (minority) language. (17, 18 & 18 a §§ Lag om nationell minoriteter [Act on National Minorities] (Svensk författningssamling [SFS] 2009:724, as amended by SFS 2018:1367, Riksdagen (Parliament) website; see also Prop. 2017/18:199 En stärkt minoritetspolitik [A Strengthened Minority Policy].)

Specifically the law mandates that municipalities that offer elder care must also offer all services in Finnish, Meänkieli (local form of Finnish), and Sami. (18–18 a §§ Lag om nationella minoriteter.) In addition, municipalities that offer elder care must also consider the importance to individuals of retaining their cultural heritage. (Id. 18 b §.) It is only the enumerated municipalities listed in article 6 (such as those located in the multistate geographical area referred to as Sápmi) that must now provide these services. (Id. 6 § & 18–18 a §§.)

Compared to the previous version of the law, the amended law also expands the authorities that must inform minorities of their rights to include all municipalities, county councils, and an increased number of government agencies. (Id. 3 §.) Minority languages may now also be used in written contacts with the Arbetsförmedlingen (Public Work Authority). (Id. at 10 §.)

In addition, an explicit right for youths to influence their minority rights is included through the addition of a provision in article 5 a stating that government agencies “must especially promote children and youths’ opportunities to influence and cooperate on issues that affect them, and adapt the form [of involvement] to the conditions [of the children and youth].” (Id. 5 a §.)

The government, in its bill, declared that any increased costs to the local municipalities resulting from the amendment to the law would not be coupled with increased funding. The state grant that is already provided to the affected municipalities will remain the same. (Prop. 2017/18:199, at 83.)