Hungary protests Slovak language law, says breaches EU norms

Hungary's PM said that Slovak legislation punishing the use of minority languages is unacceptable and goes against the basic values of the Lisbon Treaty.

Hungary protests Slovak language law, says breaches EU norms

Hungary's prime minister said on Wednesday that Slovak legislation punishing the use of minority languages is unacceptable and goes against the basic values of the European Union and the Lisbon Treaty.

Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said in a statement that Slovakia had breached the so-called Szecseny an agreement signed by the two countries in September.

Then the two central European neighbours tried to ease tensions and agreed to accept recommendations from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to resolve differences over a Slovak language law, which Hungary says hurts minority rights.

The government of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico approved rules on Wednesday governing how the law will be implemented. It will come into force in January 2010.

"The approved directives go against not only the Szecseny agreement but also against the OSCE recommendations which Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico had fully accepted," Bajnai said.

"The government is firmly requesting Slovakia to suspend the application of punitive measures for the period of ongoing talks as those cause moral and social damage, and further increase fear among minority communities."

Bajnai said if Slovakia does not suspend the measures, Hungary will give financial and legal help to the ethnic Hungarian minority in Slovakia to help their legal fight.

Some 10 percent of Slovakia's 5.4 million people have Hungarian roots.

The Slovak language law stipulates only Slovak may be used in most public offices and institutions and it is seen by many in the Hungarian minority as the latest in a series of moves by nationalist-minded governments to suppress their culture.

The OSCE had raised concerns over the implementation and sanctions of the law.

The law allows the Culture Ministry to impose fines that can reach 5,000 euro ($7,284). The ministry set 21 criteria for evaluation of a possible breach of the legislation.

"The law on the state language is not about the use of minorities' languages. It is for the protection of the state language, for the protection of Slovak citizens to use the state language ... We respect rights of minorities," Slovak Culture Minister Marek Madaric said after the government meeting.

The ministry said it cooperated with OSCE in Europe when drafting the rules of implementation.

Relations between the two ex-communist states have always been patchy but they worsened after Fico brought the rightist Slovak National Party (SNS), known for harsh rhetoric against minorities, into his ruling coalition after 2006 elections.

Reuters
Last Mod: 16 Aralık 2009, 21:15
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