German-speaking community talks to ombudsman about their status

Ljubljana, 3 April - Representatives of the German-speaking community in Slovenia met with Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina on Monday, bringing him up to date on their long-standing efforts to be recognised as a minority. They would like to be actively involved in tackling their legal status, the ombudsman's office said.

Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina.
Photo: Bor Slana/STA
File photo

The meeting was attended by Urška Kop, the new head of the Umbrella Organisation of Cultural Associations of the German-Speaking Community in Slovenia, Jan Schaller, the head of the union of cultural associations of Gottschee and Styrian Germans in Slovenia, and Veronika Haring from the Maribor-based cultural association of German speaking women Mostovi.

They talked to the ombudsman about calls for Slovenia to implement the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in places populated by ethnic minorities.

They told him that they had drawn up a publication discussing equating the legal status of the German-speaking community with those of the Italian and Hungarian minorities, which they believe could serve as a basis to consider potential solutions.

They also told the ombudsman that the cultural agreement signed by Slovenia and Austria in 2002 was not being properly implemented.

The agreement binds Slovenia to create the conditions for the German-speaking community to fully develop its identity, through language and otherwise. The community numbers a few thousand people.

The ombudsman stressed that defining special rights of ethnic minorities was primarily a political issue, but noted that his office had called on the relevant state authorities to take their position on the demands for recognition several times since 2003.

The ombudsman expects the authorities to engage in appropriate dialogue with minority representatives and will examine some issues pointed out at today's meeting, his office said in a press release.

Austria too has been pushing for the German-speaking community to be formally recognised as a minority.

The Council of Europe's Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities called on the Slovenian authorities in its report in September 2022 to enhance legal protection of the German-speaking community and new ethnic communities.

The committee also called on Slovenia to consider giving the communities access to constitutionally protected minority rights.

© STA, 2023