Slovenian minority points to unfulfilled promises of Austrian govt
Klagenfurt, 24 November - Slovenian minority organisations in Carinthia held a news conference in Klagenfurt on Friday to draw attention to the Austrian government's unfulfilled promises regarding minority rights. They stressed the need to regulate the use of Slovenian in education, judiciary and administration.
The press conference comes after the four Slovenian minority organisations from Austria addressed a petition to safeguard minority rights and uphold the rule of law to the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament (PETI). The petition highlights "the inadequate implementation of minority rights in Austria" as a threat to the ethnic minority's existence.
The head of the Community of Carinthian Slovenians (SKS), Bernard Sadovnik, said today's press conference was an important symbolic act in a time "when everyone is disappointed by Vienna's attitude" after decades of "begging" for the implementation of minority rights.
An area of particular concern is education, where the organisations call for the continuity of bilingual education at all levels, from nursery to university, Austria's public broadcaster ORF reported online.
Valentin Inzko, head of the National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS), said the Austrian authorities had broken many promises since 1867. He said the minority expected more from the current ÖVP-Greens coalition.
Austria doubled minority funding three years ago, but before that the funding did not go up for 25 years, and no raises have been introduced since either, Inzko said.
The promise to amend the law on national communities, which the government made when the compromise on bilingual local signs was agreed on in 2011, remains unfulfilled.
Inzko also pointed to restrictions in the use of Slovenian in the judiciary in Carinthia. "Carinthian Slovenians do not have access to a bilingual court in Klagenfurt, but someone from Ljubljana can request Slovenian in Klagenfurt," the NSKS leader said.
Manuel Jug, head of the Association of Slovenian Organisations (ZSO), said all representatives of Slovenians in Austria were united on this. He said that, in line with Article 7 of the Austrian State Treaty, judiciary should be bilingual in the entire bilingual territory, and called for the establishment of competence centres to ensure the functioning of the bilingual judiciary.
Jug said currently only a third of the Slovenians in Austria had access to bilingual judiciary. Slovenian Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan has recently discussed the need for expansion of this with Carinthian Governor Peter Kaiser.
Gabriel Hribar of the Unity List (EL) party pointed out that a language can only survive if it is used every day, which is not the case with Slovenian in Carinthia. In order to avoid conflicts, Hribar stressed that provisions should be made on where officials must be proficient in Slovenian.
"We've made the mistake in the past of always waiting for or looking forward to an election, regional or federal, but the situation is so serious that we cannot wait any longer," he said. After all, the Austrian State Treaty already obliges the authorities to do something in this area, because it helps the state, not just the minority, he added.