Minority warns about incomplete implementation of rights in Strasbourg

Strasbourg, 11 May - Representatives of Carinthian Slovenians informed members of the European Parliament's Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages of the situation of the Slovenian minority in Austria as they paid a visit to Strasbourg on Thursday. The delegation warned that minority rights in Austria are not fully implemented.

United List (EL) head Gabriel Hribar.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA
File photo

Rudi Vouk, lawyer and member of the Slovenian minority in Austria.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA
File photo

The representatives of United List (EL), the political party of Carinthian Slovenians, and the National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS), one of the community's three umbrella organisations, listed a number of issues, including Austria's new curriculum, under which there will be fewer hours allocated to Slovenian language classes than German classes in bilingual schools, the Austrian broadcaster ORF reported.

There will be two fewer hours of Slovenian per week compared to German, although the number of hours should be the same for both languages, said EL head Gabriel Hribar.

The changes to the curriculum were adopted without any discussion or cooperation with the minority, and the relevant Austrian minister did not even respond to the letters sent by the representatives, lawyer Rudi Vouk said as reported by Radio Slovenija.

Moreover, the representatives pointed to issues regarding bilingual kindergartens, bilingual town signs and the use of Slovenian in judiciary.

Vouk, a member of the minority known for his years-long efforts to promote its rights, told ORF that the reason for today's meeting was Austria's indifference to the open issues regarding the minority.

"We point out that the climate in the (Carinthia) region has significantly improved, and so there should not be any problems in tackling open political issues," he said. However, this better climate is used as an excuse for politicians to claim everything is fine and dandy and do nothing, he warned.

"What we have been witnessing recently is that things are not getting better, but worse," Vouk added as he pointed to kindergartens where there is no right to bilingual childcare and "the planned reform of bilingual courts that is nowhere to be seen".

He expects the meeting in Strasbourg to help end Austria's indifference in this regard. "Experience shows that Austria and Carinthia respond only when pressured from the outside," he told ORF.

In addition to members of the Parliament's Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages the meeting was attended by some MEPs from Austria and Slovenia.

According to Radio Slovenija, the Slovenian MEPs present said that the relevant legislation was clear on this, but there would be no solutions if there was no political will. MEP Milan Brglez (S&D/SD) said it was important to discuss these problems, and MEP Milan Zver (EPP/SDS) underlined that protecting minorities was equally important as protecting the individual's human rights.

The EU Parliament's intergroup will inform the European Commission of the meeting, Radio Slovenija said.

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