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All about Eva All about Eva
by Asa Butcher
Issue 4
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“I claim that there is a political wisdom, which should be used not only for your self but also for others. That is my political banner!” exclaims an enthusiastic Eva Biaudet, Parliamentarian, member of the Swedish People’s Party, mother of four and a former President of Finland candidate.

Politicians have come to symbolise distrust. They offer empty promises, little change and guarded comments, passion is sadly absent from their politics and the result has been a disillusionment and cynicism of government. Ovi Magazine believed that, until we had the pleasure of a meeting with an energetic, outspoken and zealous Eva Biaudet, in her remarkable new office inside the new Parliament Building.

“I have been a member of Parliament for 14 years, which is why I have one of these few beautiful corner offices; there’s no argument with those who are oldest by Parliamentarian age,” jokes Eva. In the last Parliament, she was Minister of Health and Social Services, but, now, how she finds time for her family is a mystery. She is on committees, in delegations and Parliamentary groups, active in the Arctic Parliament, Swedish People’s Party and in different kinds of NGOs, plus she manages to do the shopping on her way home.

Finland is a country with two official languages, Finnish and Swedish, which has created a situation of a de factum minority of six percent, “I am a Swedish-speaking Finn, but Swedish-speaking tells that about language and that it is not about nationality. By law, we are an equal part of Finland, even though we are very small. If you look at the figures, it tells that it is not about how many you are, but what kind of opportunities you have on the individual level; you cannot be a six percent person, you are always a 100% person.”

“We want to keep Finland bilingual and we want to keep the Swedish language alive. We don’t want it to vanish,” stresses Eva. Since Swedish is an official language, everybody has the right to be served, educated, prosecuted or treated in either language, but society does not work like that. “This equality doesn’t exist by itself; we really are taking care of it; it is a great pressure.”

The ‘we’ that Eva refers to is the Swedish People’s Party, who are a part of Finland’s Coalition Government. In fact, it seems that without this party there would not be enough votes to make a government, which is evidenced by the fact that they have been a part of 43 out of 60 governments. Despite the party’s name suggesting that they focus upon Swedish-speakers, the party actually has an interest in minority politics in general.

“It is very natural for us to look at minorities because we feel that society can be built for different kinds of people, it doesn’t have to be one system for all and that you cannot really count democracy and equity in mathematical terms. You have to count what it gives to you, which means that if a person is handicapped, then that person has greater needs. We are very much against dividing resources by per capita.”

The Swedish-speaking minority is a strong minority but that does not equate into equality. “The Finns say, ‘we cost a lot, you are only six percent, if you divide that per capita…’ These relations aren’t always good, but mostly they are very understanding, especially the people in political positions who say that it is a good thing for Finland, it is something that makes us all richer, we have an ‘inside multiculturalism’ that is good for us.”

“There are people, often uneducated or not very familiar, as always with a lot of prejudice, that proclaim, ‘You should go to Sweden!’, even in Parliament you hear that from time to time,” reveals Eva. An outburst like that anywhere, especially in a legislative assembly, is bordering on racism and highlights the difficulties Swedish-speaking Finns can face. If a comment like that was made in Britain’s House of Commons, then that MP’s career would come to a rapid end.

“Sometimes you can’t just quieten it down, sometimes it will get worse if just ignore it, but, for a while, this means we know, on a different level, what a Somalian, for example, can probably experience. I think that all Swedish-speaking Finns know what it is when someone treats you badly; you get hit in the street because you talk wrong or people shout at you,” expounds Eva.

Just as Eva suggests, prejudice can stem from the unknown or unfamiliar, but Ovi Magazine believes that there could also be an element of envy. Dr. Markku T Hyyppä carried out research on Swedish-speaking Finns and discovered that they live longer, are healthier, are less absent from work and proved that the Finns’ belief that Swedish-speaking Finns are all rich was not true at all.

One aspect that Eva actively expressed (for a full ten-minutes) was the issue of education. The Finnish Constitution gives the right to live your life in either language, and this wouldn’t be a problem if every judge, for example, could speak both Finnish and Swedish properly. “You need to have a system that provides enough judges. In the Helsinki University you can become a student with fewer points than a Finnish-speaking Finn in Helsinki, but not fewer than in other small, less popular faculties".

One aspect that is forgotten is that there are many universities to study law in Finnish, but there is only one place for Swedish-speakers. “There is a lot of practical stuff that you have to keep telling along with all decision-makings, it doesn’t happen by itself, even if the right is there. It is the same with immigrants or foreigners, women’s rights or children’s rights, even if people agree in principle, you have to be a constant reminder; you have to be the one to seize the whole thing, or it doesn’t function.”

Seizing everything is certainly one of Eva’s capabilities, but what is more impressive is her determination to hold on and see it to the end. She has doggedly worked for the Sámi minority in the last budget, she was the one fighting for special resources for Sámi social and health services, such as nurseries and elderly people homes, in addition, she was the one who fought for the Arctic University. “Other politicians said, ‘Are you crazy? You don’t have any voters there!’ Yeah, but I don’t only work for my voters, I also work for what is right, which for a classical political player is not very familiar.”

“We would like to be a minority party, we also think we are the best party for immigrants, the problem is that there is a language barrier, very few speak Swedish. I have started a multicultural Finland organisation within the party because I felt that it is important that parties do have ‘new’ Finns, not only showing off in elections and so forth; they should participate.”

After 14 years in politics, you would think that the disappointment, repetitiveness and attacks would have jaded some of the passion, but Eva is still going strong. Ovi Magazine begins to fear that her children may not get that bedtime story, but we have a feeling that they won’t suffer either. “I have been in Parliament for quite a long time, but I still get excited - I guess that is why I am here,” she says before dashing off to meet the German president.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH PART OF EVA'S INTERVIEW  


   
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