Committee okays bill on cultural rights of ex-Yugoslavian communities

Ljubljana, 15 February - The parliamentary Culture Committee endorsed on Thursday the government bill on Slovenia's implementation of cultural rights of national communities from the former Yugoslavia. One of the additional amendments to the bill would enable children from these communities to learn their mother tongue in school.

The Democrats' (SDS) deputy group proposed the withdrawal of this item from the agenda, as the largest opposition party considers that there is no need for this law.

Their proposal was supported by the other opposition party, New Slovenia (NSi), but it was voted down in the end.

According to the sponsors, the bill does not address collective rights of the national communities from the former Yugoslavia but their cultural rights.

Matej Tašner Vatovec from the Left believes that the proposal would sort out a segment of what Slovenian politicians promised as Slovenia gained independence in 1991, meaning a special status that the communities were promised.

Its key solution is the implementation of cultural programmes and projects of the members of the communities, said Sandra Gazinkovski, an MP for the ruling party Freedom Movement.

The aim is to make sure financing or co-financing of the projects through open calls will no longer be in the purview of the Public Fund for Cultural Activities, but the responsibility of the Culture Ministry.

Another measure the bill would introduce is to grant the government council dedicated to the communities and their issues a status of a permanent government consultative body.

The ministry supports the bill, State Secretary Matevž Čelik Vidmar said. The proposal merely establishes a comprehensive legislative framework to facilitate the implementation of existing cultural rights of members of the communities, the rights that are guaranteed to all citizens or residents of Slovenia in line with the constitution.

The parliament's legal service did warn though that the coalition's additional amendments alleviated only some of the concerns legal experts had expressed.

They also believe that the draft bill does not actually define cultural rights, nor does it regulate the way in which they are to be exercised.

The bill enjoys the support of representatives of Croats, Macedonians and Serbs in Slovenia, who see it as a major step towards honouring the commitments Slovenia made upon its independence.

National Council representative Jožef Školč also expressed support for the bill, adding that it was "about halfway between what could truly be done and probably should be done".

The MPs' debate mainly revolved around the coalition's additional amendment that aims to enable children from the communities to learn their native language and culture in primary and secondary schools. The opposition wondered whether the bill is discriminative against other minorities.

© STA, 2024