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Ombudsman: The abbreviation "ELY-central" is not appropriate

The Ministry of Employment and the Economy has been rebuked by Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen for having approved 'ELY-central' as the Swedish-language abbreviation for a Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (in Finnish Elinkeino-, liikenne- ja ympäristökeskus) or ELY centre.

"ELY-central is a mixed-language expression, the use of which conflicts with language rights, and is not good use of language in accordance with the principle of good administration," the Ombudsman points out.

A complaint about the matter had been made by the Swedish Language Board at the Council of State (i.e. Government). The Ministry had not taken the Board’s views into account when the abbreviation was decided on.

The Ombudsman points out that also in designation-related matters the public authorities must cherish the use of both national languages. If an authority feels it necessary to adopt an abbreviation of its name, it must be formulated in both national languages according to the same principles. If a Finnish-language abbreviation of an authority’s official name is made, a Swedish-language abbreviation must correspondingly be derived from the name in Swedish.

ELY cannot be just a brand

The Ministry of Employment and the Economy explained in the report requested from it that the Finnish-language abbreviation functions as a brand in Swedish and other languages.

However, the Ombudsman takes the view that ELY is not an invented parallel name in the same way as, for example, "Trafi”  in the case of the Finnish Transport Safety Agency; instead, it has been derived from the official Finnish-language name and has a logical association with the official name.

By contrast, seen from the point of view of a Swedish-speaking person, there is not the same logical connection between the abbreviation ELY-central and the official Swedish-language name Närings-, trafik- och miljöcentral. This is likely to cause confusion and does not accord with the requirements of good administration.

The Ombudsman asks in his decision why an abbreviation or acronym was not formed from the agency’s Swedish-language name if the matter is seen as only a brand. If the abbreviation for "elinkeino-, liikenne- ja ympäristökeskus" had been NTM-keskus in Finnish, it would have been regarded, perhaps self-evidently, as inappropriate from the perspective of Finnish-speakers.


The Ombudsman has asked the Ministry of Employment and the Economy to inform him, by 31.12.2013, of what measures his decision has prompted. Copies of the decision have also been sent for information to the Unit for Democracy, Language Affairs and Fundamental Rights at the Ministry of Justice, the Personnel and Governance Policy Department of the Ministry of Finance, the Institute for the Languages of Finland and Svenska Finlands Folkting (the Swedish Assembly of Finland).

Additional info will be provided by Senior Legal Adviser Mikko Sarja, tel. +358(0)9 432 3364.