National minorities and national minority languages

The five national minorities in Sweden are the Jews, the Roma, the Sami (also indigenous people), the Swedish Finns, and the Tornedalers. The minority languages are Jiddisch, Romani chib, Sami, Meänkieli and Finnish.

The Act on National Minorities and Minority Languages applies to the whole of Sweden. It describes which rights that minorities have in the whole country and within the specific administrative areas for Sami, Meänkieli and Finnish.

You have the right to be informed about your rights, no matter what national minority language you speak or where in Sweden you live. If you live in a municipality in our administrative district, you also have the right to communicate with us in your language, in both speech and writing.

On The National Board of Health and Welfare’s web site you can find information about the linguistic rights of minorities and also find out what you can demand from municipalities and authorities.

Methodological support

Methodological support on guiding documents

Sweden’s municipalities and regions are obliged to adopt goals and guidelines for their minority policy work. Municipalities and regions will actively take a stand to how they will run the minority policy work and it must be stated in some type of guiding document.

The County Administrative Board of Stockholm and the Sámi Parliament have produced a methodological support to ease, support and inspire municipalities and regions in their minority policy work goals and guidelines.

Knowledge and methodological support regarding influence and participation

Municipalities, regions, and state authorities have an obligation to give the national minorities the opportunity to influence matters that concern them and, as far as possible, to consult with the minorities on such matters. Consultation must take place through a structured dialogue with the national minorities to be able to consider their views and needs in the authority's decision-making. Children's and young people's opportunities for influence and consultation must be particularly promoted and the forms for this must be adapted to their circumstances.

The County Administrative Board of Stockholm and the Sámi Parliament have produced a knowledge and methodological support regarding national minorities’ influence and participation. The support should contribute to easing, supporting and inspiring municipalities, regions and authorities in their work to ensure national minorities’ right to influence and participation.

The Act on consultation on issues concerning the Sámi people is valid from the 1st of March 2022. This means that state administrative authorities are obliged to consult Sámi representatives before decisions are made in matters that can have a direct impact on, for example, the Sámi language, culture, industries, or position as indigenous people. The Sámi representative are the Sámi Parliament, Sámi villages and Sámi organisations. The purpose of the law is to ensure the Sámi’s rights to participate in decision making and increase their influence in matters that especially concern them.

From the 1st of March 2024, municipalities and regions are also be covered by the law.

Application for request of consultation

Sámi organisations can apply to the County Administrative Board to be consulted in matters of special importance. You must state which matters you wish to be consulted about and send your statutes to the County Administrative Board.

General regulations for municipalities and authorities

The general regulations in the The Act on National Minorities and Minority Languages regulates the rights that all five national minorities have in the entire country.

  • Municipalities and regions must inform the national minorities about their rights and the public’s responsibilities according to the Minorities Act and the regulations to which the Act refers. The same applies to state administrative authorities whose activities are important for the national minorities or minority languages.
  • The public has a specific responsibility to protect and promote the national minority languages. They should also promote the national minorities’ possibilities to keep and develop their culture in Sweden.
  • Children’s development of a cultural identity and the use of their own minority language should be especially promoted.
  • Administrative authorities should give minorities the possibility to influence matters that concern them, and as far as possible, consult the minorities in such questions. The national minorities should be consulted through structured dialogue with the purpose to consider their views and needs in the authority’s decision making.
  • The administrative authorities must focus on children and young people’s possibilities to influence and consult in matters that concern them, and to adapt the structure for this to fit their conditions.
  • Municipalities and regions are obliged to adopt goals and guidelines for their minority policy work. If requested, information about these need to be given to the County Administrative Board of Stockholm and the Sámi Parliament.

Special rights for Finnish, Meänkieli and Sámi

In addition to the general provisions, special rights apply to Finnish, Meänkieli and Sámi in so-called administrative areas:

  • Individuals have the right to use the languages during verbal and written contact with authorities in individual matters where the authority is the decision maker.
  • The authority is obliged to give a verbal reply in the same language, as well as a written translation of the decision and motivation upon request. The authority can decide on a certain time and place where the service can be given in the minority language.
  • The administrative authorities will work towards ensuring the access to staff with knowledge in the minority languages.
  • If someone in the administrative area wishes for it, municipalities have special obligations to offer preschool and care for the elderly, entirely or to a significant extent in the minority languages.

In depth information about national minorities and minority languages

Here you can find information about the policy, the management of the work with national minorities and minority languages, the management of the work and initiatives related to the area of national minorities and minority languages.

According to the Council of Europe's framework convention, it is up to the signatory countries to decide according to which criteria the minorities are to be designated. In Sweden, the Riksdag has decided that to obtain the status of a national minority, one must:

  • Be a group that has an expressed affinity, that can be distinguished from the rest of the population.
  • Have a religious, linguistic, traditional, or cultural distinctiveness, which it does not share with others.
  • Have a pronounced desire to keep their identity.
  • Have historical or long-term ties with Sweden.

Jews, Romani, Sámi, Swedish Finns and Tornedals are recognized as national minorities in Sweden based in these criteria. The Sámi are also recognized as indigenous people.

The principal of self-identification is used in Sweden to decide who is a part of a national minority. According to Swedish minority policy, this means that the individuals themselves deiced if they want to be included in a national minority group or now. Approximately 10 percent of the population are a part of a national minority.

There are five recognized national minority languages in Sweden:

  • Finnish
  • Jiddisch
  • Meänkieli
  • Romani chib
  • Sámi.

This means that society has a special responsibility to help these languages to live on, develop and be passed on to the next generation.

Within the five recognized minority languages, there are different linguistic variations, so-called varieties. Romani chib is an example of a collective name for many different Romani language variations that can be like each other but also be very different. Within the Sámi language, Northern Sámi and Southern Sámi are so different that they can almost be called different languages.

In 2000, Sweden joined the Council of Europe's Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages. In connection with that, minority policy was introduced as a separate policy area within the Swedish state budget. The minority policy’s overall goal is to protect national minorities and strengthen their possibilities to influence, as well as support the historical minority languages to keep them alive.

The government reformed minority policy in 2009 and presented a strategy as well as the Minorities Act. The Act applies to the whole of Sweden and entails that:

  • The minority languages should be protected and promoted.
  • The national minorities should be able to keep and develop their culture.
  • The administrative authorities are obliged to inform the minorities about their rights and give them influence in matters that concern them.

On the 1st of January 2019, the Act on National Minorities was adjusted to further strengthen rights and obligations. Municipalities and regions are now, for example, obliged to set goals and guidelines for their minority policy work. They must, if requested, give this information to the follow up authorities for minority policy work – the County Administrative Board of Stockholm and the Sámi Parliament.

The County Administrative Board and the Sámi Parliament have a special task within minority policy to coordinate and follow up how Swedish minority policy is conducted in the municipalities and authorities throughout the country. The development is reported annually to the government. The Sámi Parliament is responsible for the Sámi and the Sámi languages meanwhile the County Administrative Board is responsible for the other four minorities and minority languages.

The County Administrative Board's and Sami Parliament's follow-up responsibility does not involve supervision, that responsibility rests with the Swedish Schools Inspectorate and the Health and Social Care Inspectorate. The County Administrative Board and the Sami Parliament also carry out information and training initiatives and provide support to municipalities and other authorities in matters relating to minority policy.

The County Administrative Board are also responsible for coordinating and following up actions within the government’s strategy for Romani inclusion. A part of the follow-up is an annual report that is compiled and handed to the government to make them aware of the development. The County Administrative Board also work with supporting municipalities in developing ways to work towards Romani inclusion.

The County Administrative Board of Stockholm and the Sámi Parliament distribute the state grants to municipalities and regions that are a part of the administrative areas for Finnish, Meänkieli and Sámi. The County Administrative Board of Stockholm also distributes state grants to organisations who represent Jews, Romani, Swedish Finns and Tornedals, as well as municipalities who work to promote Romani inclusion.

The website minoritet.se spreads awareness on Sweden’s national minorities – Jews, Romanni, Sámi, Swedish Finns and Tornedals. The Sámi Parliament are responsible for the website and representatives from the national minorities are involved in their work.

Here you can also find information about Sweden's minority commitments, current legislation and authority information from the County Administrative Board in Stockholm County and the Sami Parliament.

Since 2012, there are several on-going efforts to reach Romain inclusion and decrease the gap of confidence which may exist between Romani and the majority of society. Romani participation and influence are important components that need to permeate all work that is carried out.

In February 2012, the government decided on a 20-year strategy for Romani inclusion with the overall goal that “the Romani who turns 20 years old in 2032 should have the same possibilities in life as a non-Romani”. The strategy is based on the human rights, significantly the right to not be discriminated, and is carried out within the area for the minority policy strategy. The Roma who are socially and economically excluded and who are exposed to discrimination are the main target group. Women, children and young people must also be prioritized in the work.

The strategy includes goals and measures within six areas:

  • Eduation
  • Work
  • Housing
  • Health, social care and safety
  • Culture and language
  • The organisation of civil society.

Supporting material for Romani inclusion

The County Administrative Board have developed films and podcast episodes to spread awareness and inspire to concrete measures for Romani inclusion. The material is mainly aimed towards employees within the public sector.

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