Minority organisation freezes participation in consensus group

Klagenfurt, 22 November - Minority official Manuel Jug has frozen participation of the Association of Slovenian Organisations (ZSO), a Slovenian minority umbrella organisation in Austria, in a consensus group with the majority German-speaking population over its head's far-right views, expectedly until next summer.

Jug announced the moratorium as he was re-elected ZSO president in Klagenfurt, the capital of the Austrian state of Carinthia, on Saturday.

He is aware that the ZSO's cooperation with the nationalist group Heimatdienst (KHD) within the Carinthia Consensus Group, which aims to implement Slovenian minority rights through compromise with the German-speaking majority in Carinthia, "had too much weight" in the ZSO.

This has led some people outside the ZSO to feel that the two organisations are somehow allies, which is why some have distanced themselves from the ZSO, he said.

"Many people have told me that the KHD head is an advocate of the European far-right and that we as a minority should not tie our fate to the fate of this political trend," Jug was quoted on the ZSO's website.

Since the ZSO's cooperation with the KHD no longer enjoys enough support among a significant share of the ZSO, Jug announced a moratorium on it until the summer of 2023.

By then, the ZSO will assess the attitude of the Austrian federal and Carinthian regional governments towards the demands of the Slovenian minority and produce a set of goals that should better reflect the current challenges.

The Carinthia Consensus Group has received several awards for promoting dialogue and coexistence of the two ethnic groups, including the European Citizen's Prize in 2009.

Jug, who succeeded long-serving ZOS president Marjana Šturm in February 2019, also pointed to preserving and strengthening the Slovenian language as the minority's main challenge.

"Language will be preserved if we speak it - at school, in kindergarten, in nurseries, in associations and, above all, at home in the family. We need to work even harder for the best education, from early pre-school education to the baccalaureate."

© STA, 2022