Simon Marainen jojkar
Simon Marainen yoiks during a dinner for decision-makers from across the EU on a visit in Kiruna. Photo: Sami Information Centre.

The Sami and the EU

Following the referendum and Sweden's membership of the EU, the Sami's contacts with the EU have led to increased investment in business, labour market and employment policy measures. For the EU, it is natural to invest resources in retaining the diversity of Europe's cultures, and the Sami are an important element in this respect. As an indigenous people, the Sami hold a special position in relation to other minority groups in Europe.

The EU's regional policy is aimed at increasing the economic and social cohesion between the Member States, and is an important instrument in reducing regional imbalances and differences in economic development. The work is financed through the 'structural funds'.

Current programming period
During the 2000-2006 programming period, the EU contributed around EUR 195 billion to the structural funds. For Sweden, this meant a financial contribution of around SEK 19 billion (EUR 2.186 billion). It is calculated that the Sami EU programmes, Target 1 and Interreg III A, for which the Sami Parliament was responsible, turned over around SEK 252 million during the period 2000-2006. Through the EU's structural fund programme, the Sami have gained access to offensive resources for Sami business and cultural development. Contributions from the EU's structural funds also demand national public financing of between 35-50 percent of the total cost of the projects.

Concrete development projects
Regional authorities, municipalities and local Sami players have moved closer to each other during the work on concrete development projects within the framework of the EU programmes. Sami institutions, organisations, samebys, associations, foundations and other players have been forced to look beyond the traditional subsidy channels in order to finance their projects. This has led to increased interaction with municipalities, regional and national authorities, as well as a joint assumption of responsibility for Sami social development. During the 2007-2013 programming period, the number of programme types will be reduced from 7 to 3. As more countries with greater needs have joined the EU, there are set to be changes as regards the content of the programmes.

The Sami's position in the EU
The Sami protocol, which has been attached to the agreement on Swedish membership of the European Union, recognises the obligations and undertakings that Sweden has in relation to the Sami people in accordance with national and international law. The protocol states that Sweden is committed to preserving and developing the Sami people's living conditions, language, culture and way of life. Sweden and the EU have also jointly observed that the Sami culture and lifestyle are dependent on primary sources of income such as reindeer herding in areas where the Sami traditionally live.

The primary objective of the Sami EU programmes is to strengthen Sami business and thereby to contribute to the development of Sami culture and Sami social life. The challenge consists of strengthening and preserving the Sami's traditional trades, at the same time as creating the conditions for developing new, vital businesses on the basis of culture and social life. The long-term goal is a differentiated and developed Sami commercial sector that is based on the close ties between the natural environment, culture and tradition. It is important to utilise and develop traditional Sami knowledge, higher education and research adapted to Sami conditions.

The position of the Swedish Sami in Sweden and Europe has been strengthened following EU membership. The Sami successes can be summarised as follows:

  • Sápmi has been designated as a region in Europe, and the Sami people's international work has been broadened as a result of the Sami's special conditions and circumstances being viewed from new perspectives.
  • A form of Sami business fund was created nationally in Sweden (Target 1), as well as an 'all-Sami' fund (Interreg III) where Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia are working jointly for the development and reinforcement of Sami business and cultural life.
  • With the support of the EU's subsidiarity principle, an improved form of self-determination has been achieved as a result of the Sami Parliament in Sweden and the other publicly elected bodies being responsible for and taking decisions regarding the use of the funds, as well as prioritising the work that is to be undertaken.

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