Finland’s international obligations

Finland is a party to several treaties concerning linguistic rights. Instruments of the UN, the Council of Europe and the EU law include articles on linguistic rights.

Two highly important treaties for the linguistic rights have been concluded within the Council of Europe:

  • European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (Finnish Treaty Series 23/1998)

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages seeks to strengthen the position of minority languages. The Charter recognises minority languages as part of the European cultural heritage and seeks to promote their position among the mainstream European languages. The Charter protects the position of languages that are traditionally used by minorities within a given territory of a state. This means that the scope of the Charter excludes the languages spoken by immigrants, for example.

  • Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (Finnish Treaty Series 2/1998)

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities sets out the principles, binding on the states parties, for protecting the national minorities in their own territory. The states parties also undertake, among other things, to comply with the principle of non-discrimination and equality and to support the preservation and development of minority cultures in many different ways.

Convention between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden on the right of Nordic nationals to use their mother tongue in other Nordic Countries – The Nordic Language Convention (Finnish Treaty Series 11/1987) The Nordic Language Convention entered into force on 1 March 1987. Pursuant to the Language Convention, citizens of the Nordic countries must, when necessary, be able to use their own language before an authority or a public agency of another Nordic country. These include medical care and healthcare, social welfare, employment, tax, police and education authorities as well as courts of law. The Convention does not apply to contacts by telephone. The authority in question must arrange the necessary interpretation and translation services, where this is feasible. Interpretation must always be provided in criminal matters.

Other international treaties concerning linguistic rights:

  • European Convention on Human Rights (Finnish Treaty Series 19/1990)
  • Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
  • Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, ILO Convention 169
  • Revised European Social Charter (Finnish Treaty Series 78/2002)
  • UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)
  • UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the first optional protocol establishing an individual complaints mechanism (Finnish Treaty Series 8/1976)
  • UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992)
  • United Nations Charter (Finnish Treaty Series 1/1956)
  • UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Finnish Treaty Series 6/1976)
  • UN Convention of Disability Rights
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Finnish Treaty Series 60/1991)
  • UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (Finnish Treaty Series 59/1971)