Pahor and Ader mark 30 years of Slovenian minority association in Hungary
Szentgotthard, 4 September - The presidents of Slovenia and Hungary, Borut Pahor and Janos Ader, honoured the 30th anniversary of the the Association of Slovenians in Hungary at a ceremony in Szentgotthard on Saturday with Pahor noting the important role of ethnic minorities as a link between nations.
Pahor said minorities were more than just a bridge between countries. "At a time when crisis situation reminds us about the importance of good neighbourly cooperation and cross-border links, this is of special importance," Pahor said.
He said the anniversary was a reason for celebration for the Slovenian community, their region and the cross-border region, which is enriched by minorities. "History dealt several painful chapters to this region, but also gifted it with a wealth of cultures and languages," he said.
He called for Slovenia and Hungary to continue to foster minorities. "Every minority, no matter how small, has the power to break stereotypes and change the world for the better."
The president thanked the Association of Slovenians in Hungary, which he said had achieved a lot in the 30 years, "many times with modest funds, but with courage and a big heart".
He also drew attention to the association's role as en engine of the region's economic development.
"Your projects, drawing from the rich cultural heritage and traditional way of life, are oriented into the future - they look to young members of the community and are European by spirit."
Pahor expressed his satisfaction as support from both countries in recent times has been larger than anytime in the past.
Apart from showing the importance of the association, the attendance of the two presidents at the ceremony was described as a show of commitment to foster friendship and coexistence between the two nations, to enhance and respect the role of ethnic minorities on both sides of the border and protect their identities.
Pahor's office said the ceremony was part of the president's efforts to preserve exemplary, orderly and genuinely friendly relations with all four neighbourly countries.
The Association of Slovenians in Hungary was founded as the first Slovenian independent minority organisation in Hungary on 27 October 1990, joined by another one later on. It has also established the foundations of the cultural autonomy of the Slovenian ethnic community in Hungary.
Its president Andrea Kovač said the association had been fostering preservation and development of cultural language and the mother tongue from the start, successfully representing the community's cultural, educational and economic interests.
As some of its landmarks, Kovač listed the launch of the newspaper Porabje in February 1991, the adoption of the minority law and an agreement between Slovenia and Hungary to respect the rights of the respective minorities. In 2006 the association also founded a development agency.
Kovač hoped for Slovenia to support a programme to stimulate the economic development of the region populated by the Slovenian minority in Hungary, just like Hungary did for the region.
She said their efforts were aimed at boosting the confidence of the ethnic Slovenians so that they are proud of their roots and would declare themselves Slovenians in the census next year. She is confident the Slovenian community counts 5,000 and not just 2,500 or 2,800 by official estimates.