Minorities note political and language representation issues

Ljubljana, 4 October - The parliamentary Commission for Slovenians Abroad took note of the situation of autochthonous Slovenian ethnic communities in Slovenia's neighbours on Monday. The commission unanimously approved coalition-sponsored proposals aimed at improving the situation amid concerns about insufficient political and language representation.

At their first regular session in the current parliamentary term, the commission's members unanimously adopted three decisions. Under the first, the commission urges the government to strengthen bilateral and multilateral ties to express Slovenia's position on open issues involving the communities.

Under the second decision, the commission backed the government's activities in drafting amendments to the umbrella legislation and strategic documents in this area, and in line with the third decision, the MPs propose that the government draft proposals for measures in the areas of youth, know-how exchange and economic cooperation with Slovenians abroad.

At the beginning of the session, representatives of the communities in Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary reported about their respective situations.

They all face problems in ensuring bilingualism. In Austria's Carinthia, there is a shortage of bilingual teachers, especially in pre-school education, and a decline in language proficiency levels among children learning Slovenian.

There is a shortage of Slovenian teachers in Croatia as well, while there is also no research institution dedicated to the Slovenian minority either in Croatia or Hungary.

The communities, particularly those in Italy and Austria, are faced with the problem of insufficient use of the Slovenian language in the public sphere. The minority in Italy is also concerned about a shortage of Slovenian priests.

Representatives of umbrella organisations of the minority in Austria warned that the Austrian authorities were starting to neglect to mention Article 7 of the Austrian State Treaty, an article guaranteeing minority rights, in debates and official documents, in what could be problematic for minority protection in the long term.

In Croatia, the lack of media in Slovenian is also a problem, as is the fact that Slovenians do not have a representative in the Croatian parliament, as the Slovenian, Montenegrin, Albanian, Macedonian and Bosnian minorities are guaranteed one joint representative only.

The problem of a lack of political representation is also present in Hungary, where the minority has no representative in the parliament, only an advocate that is not entitled to vote. Economic isolation of the Raba (Porabje) region is also a major problem for the minority there.

Minister for Slovenians Abroad Matej ArĨon stressed that the function of the Office for Slovenians Abroad he heads is to act as a link between the individual communities and Slovenia, and to jointly set priorities in addressing the open issues.

© STA, 2022