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Von: Eurolang (Brigitte Alfter & John Walsh)
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The two main Slovene organisations in Carinthia have issued a joint declaration expressing concern over what they view is an inaccurate portrayal of treatment of their minority by the provincial government led by former Austrian Freedom Party leader, Jörg Haider.
The statement was issued jointly by the Council of Slovenes in Carinthia and the Central Organisation of Slovene Associations in association with the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages (EBLUL).
The Slovenes take issue with a brochure about the situation of the minority in Carinthia published by the provincial government on the occasion of the recent European Council meeting in Feira.
The declaration claims that the brochure ‘paints minority political relations in Carinthia in a very strange light, attempting to make such relations appear better. Therefore people could get the impression that the situation for the Slovene minority in Austria is ideal and that this should be an example throughout Europe.
‘In general this is not true – although some progress was made during the last fifteen years’, the document states.
‘The Slovene minority is still under strong pressure to assimilate; several minority regulations exist only on paper but are hardly put into practice and in other issues clear regulations are missing’, it adds.
The press office of the government of Carinthia has said that the brochure, originally published in small circulation in German, English and French, is soon to be reprinted and translated into at least two more languages. It is also to be distributed throughout the province itself.
One of the main bones of contention highlighted by the Slovenes is the Carinthian government’s claims of an ‘excellent’ education system in the province. This is rejected in the joint declaration.
‘Recently the Carinthian government announced that for bilingual schools bilingual qualifications for headmasters will no longer be requested’, they state.
‘This is an example of the pressure directed towards the Slovene minority. It can be feared that this will lead to a further deterioration of Slovene education’.
The declaration also refers to difficulties with minority media, bilingual kindergartens and the failure to put up bilingual signs, despite constitutional guarantees.
The two organisations, while traditionally separate, have recently begun to co-operate on several key issues of concern.