Matters are getting tougher in Finland if you are a minority belongs to an affluent group like the Swedish-speaking Finns or a poor one like the Romany minority. What do both initiatives, to demote Swedish to elective status at schools and ban begging, tell about Finland today?
One way to answer the latter question is to look at who is behind these two initiatives. With respect to the one that aims to demote the role of Swedish at schools, all four associations behind the direct initiative have strong anti-immigration stands never their views of cultural diversity.
While the Swedish-speaking minority has the resources to defend themselves from attacks by populist politicians hellbent on destroying their rights and gained privileges, it’s a totally different story when looking at the bill to ban begging, which would target the Romany minority.
Why are conservative politicians like MP Arto Satonen of the National Coalition Party so keen on banning begging? Is it because of the party’s poor showing in the polls?
A good editorial by Lahti-based daily Etelä-Suomen Sanomat claims that while conservative politicians are stirring up debate once again over a begging ban, it is the wrong way of addressing the issue.
“A strict begging ban seems like a simple solution. However the core of the problem can’t be solved by simple means. If Finland were to follow Denmark’s example it would send out a message that it’s no longer worth coming here to beg. Our streets would be more orderly, because the beggars and their sinister ringleaders would move off somewhere else.”
The daily says that “huge efforts” are needed to challenge poverty and promote human rights everywhere in the EU.