Slovenian communities abroad present their challenges to MPs
Ljubljana, 17 January - The challenges faced by Slovenian ethnic communities in the neighbouring countries were discussed as the parliamentary Commission for Slovenians Abroad met on Monday at the behest of the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), which urged for support for the young in particular.
The party urged improving the position of young members of Slovenian communities and their ties with the homeland as a priority, noting the importance of youth for the preservation of Slovenian culture and identity in the neighbouring countries and worldwide.
They urged the government to draw up a new strategy of relations with Slovenians living outside of Slovenia with an emphasis on bettering the circumstances of young people and their links with Slovenia.
Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch presented her office's activities and efforts to help boost Slovenian communities abroad, noting the increase in funding as well as the many visits she paid to enhance relations with the communities and advocate for their rights.
Representatives of the communities reported about the challenges they face with minority officials from Austria noting the issue of Slovenian language teaching and the absence of a law on bilingual kindergartens in the Carinthia province.
"Unless we secure bilingual education to be on offer systemically starting from nursery as soon as possible, we'll be losing each year generations that won't learn Slovenian," warned Bernard Sadovnik, the head of the Community of Carinthian Slovenians (SKS).
The Austrian government should bear in mind "the question of elementary pedagogy is a matter of Article 7" of the Austrian State Treaty, which should be tackled at the state level.
Similarly, Rudi Vouk of the Slovenian Consensus for Constitutional Rights (SKUP) reported that bilinguality was not working at offices and courts and there was still progress to be made on bilingual place names.
Representatives of the Slovenian community in Italy raised the issue of autonomy of Slovenian education set down in the 2001 minority protection act but not implemented.
Ksenija Dobrila, the head of the Cultural and Economic Association (SKGZ), said the "intensity of relations with the homeland is of existential importance to us".
Julijan Čaudek of the Council of Slovenian Organisations (SSO) praised Minister Jaklitsch for her efforts and her "continuous presence" in the field, which "makes it feel Slovenia stands by the Slovenian minority".
Barbara Antolić Vupora, the first ethnic Slovenian member of the Croatian parliament, spoke about the political involvement of the Slovenian community in Croatia, expressing concern over the decline in the community's numbers over the past 20 years.
Andrea Kovač, the head of the Association of Slovenians in Hungary, spoke about the community's position in Hungary, mentioning bilingual kindergartens, primary schools and media, while noting staff shortages as a challenge.
She said the standard of rights had been achieved with Slovenia's help and with Hungary's being open to solving the issues.