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Von: Eurolang (Brigitte Alfter )
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The Austrian parliament today passed a legal requirement which adds to the constitution an obligation to respect the country's recognised minorities.
'The language and culture, the continued existence and preservation of these minorities is to be respected, safeguarded and promoted', the text says.
Important words, now we need action, is the conclusion of Terezija Stoisits, chairperson of the parliament's Human Rights Committee and Green Party MP.
'This is a huge step, but it has no immediate practical results at all', says Stoisits, who is also a member of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly.
For today's parliamentary meeting, Stoisits had suggested an entire revision of existing minority laws, for example the extensive law of 1976 on the background of the new legal requirement and the European Framework Convention for National Minorities.
However the suggestions for the revision of existing law was rejected outright and Freedom Party members refused to give a blank cheque for a comprehensive review, Stoisits told Eurolang.
'Chancellor Schüssel is likely to say that Austria is now ahead once again. But for example I ask myself why the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages has not yet been ratified', she says.
The legal requirement has been requested by minority groups for years and has been welcomed.
'The decision is an important step for Austrian minorities', comments Sylvija Resetarits, chairperson of the Croatian Academic Club.
'We consider it a task for the federal legislative as well as the provinces, the communes and all the authorities consider how each step is compatible with the requirement", she says, pointing out, like Stoisits, that existing laws and regulations should be revised accordingly.
The requirement is considered a guideline to be used when further legal steps are taken or when the constitutional court treats issues covered by the legal requirement.
It does not contain individual or collective rights, explains jurist Franjo Schruiff of the Croatian news service in Vienna.