Swedish PM says Finland and Sweden do not need to apologise to each other over common history
This year marks 200 years since Finland and Sweden parted company
On Thursday, Finland and Sweden launched the events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the separation of Finland from Sweden. The opening of the commemoration took place at the Swedish Parliament in the company of the Swedish royal family.
President Tarja Halonen and her husband Pentti Arajärvi, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre), and Speaker of Parliament Sauli Niinistö (National Coalition) represented Finland on the occasion, accompanied by a broad parliamentary delegation.
At the same time, the ocasionally vexed status of Finnish culture in Sweden was brought up.
”We have to be self-critical and to ask ourselves whether the official Finland has sufficiently promoted the linguistic and cultural needs of Finnish-speaking residents in Sweden”, said Prime Minister Vanhanen in his address.
”Therefore we do hope now that Sweden would wholeheartedly respond to the expectations defined by Finnish immigrants themselves”, Vanhanen continued.
Thursday’s edition of the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter published an expression of opinion by Maria Wetterstrand, one of the chairs of the Swedish Green Party.
Wetterstrand demanded that the Swedish government should apologise for the integration policy focused on the country’s Finnish-speaking population in the 20th century.
”I cannot help thinking that a certain class-thinking has had a distinct influence on what kind of attitude our countries have taken toward these linguistic minorities. In Finland the Swedish-speaking population belongs to the upper class, while in Sweden the Finnish-speaking minority has been suffering from a low social standing, finding themselves largely bereft of influence”, Wetterstrand wrote.
Wetterstrand is married to Ville Niinistö, a Finnish politician representing the Green League and a nephew of Sauli Niinistö.
Carl Bildt, the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, rejected the idea of a formal apology.
”If I were to apologise for all that has happened in the history of Sweden, I would not have time for anything else”, responded Bildt to journalists.
The Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt also regarded the idea as peculiar.
”I hope that people in both countries would feel that our cooperation is so close that we can communicate with each other without apologising for anything. The relations between Finland and Sweden are so good that such behaviour would seem strange”, noted Reinfeldt.
Sweden and Finland were one kingdom for more than 600 years until 1809, when Sweden lost Finland to Russia in the Napoleonic Wars.
Today both countries speak of a rich common history and close cooperation.
”Today - 200 years after 1809 - Finland is closer to us than any other country in terms of politics and economy, and as human beings”, said Bildt.
On Friday President Halonen will visit a school attended by Finnish-speaking Swedish children in the municipality of Botkyrka.
She will also meet representatives of the organisation for Finnish immigrants in Botkyrka and Södertälje.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Ex President Koivisto: Soviet submarines strained Finnish-Swedish ties in early 1980s (4.9.2008)
War of Finland 1808-1809
President of the Republic of Finland
Chronology of Finnish History (Virtual Finland)