The newly drafted Swedish constitution has declared that the Saami are no longer an ethnic minority but a fully-fledged people.
While the wording of the agreement sheds little light on the new implications for international law, most legal experts agree the move will theoretically strengthen the rights of the indigenous Saami.
Professor of international law, Ove Bring, told the media that the mere mention of the Swedish Saami as both a people and a minority under the constitution would be of major significance. “Traditionally, a people has a stronger right to autonomy that a minority,” said Bring. “A people have political rights, while an indigenous group has cultural rights.”
The issue has been a bone of contention since an earlier draft of the new Swedish constitution listed the Saami as an ‘ethnic minority’, triggering widespread condemnation from the country’s indigenous community, reports Siku News.
Under the guidance of Sara Laon, the Saami parliamentary chairperson, a revision of the document was undertaken and an updated version produced. This was formally presented to the Swedish parliamentary committee last week for assessment and approval. Laon said that the new constitution is a step in the right direction for the Saami, but that some issues still need to be addressed.