News Briefs

Csáky plans national programme against alcoholism
EU Commissioner worried about Roma conditions
Kukan signs Minority Languages Charter

Csáky plans national programme against alcoholism

Returning from a trip to Stockholm where he participated in a conference called "Youth and Alcohol", Deputy Minister for Minority and Human Rights Pál Csáky announced February 20 that he would submit a national programme against alcoholism to cabinet in April. The programme, based upon the 2000-2005 European Action Plan for the Fight Against Alcohol Addiction, aims to fight alcoholism among youths.
Over 9,100 alcoholics underwent treatment in Slovakia last year. Csáky said Slovakia had the fifth highest rate of alcoholism among females aged 15-16 in Europe, many of whom combine alcohol with pills, and that one in ten European high school students gets drunk at least three times a month.

EU Commissioner worried about Roma conditions

European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen, who began an official visit to Slovakia on February 21, expressed concern over the living standards of Slovakia's Roma minority the day before his visit while still in Brussels. He added that other countries like Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania were fighting similar problems.
The EC supports Slovak efforts to improve conditions for the Roma, he said, noting that the EU would not insist on a complete solution to the problem before acceptance in the union. He said that candidate countries were expected to treat the problem in an "appropriate" way that gave reason for optimism.
Verheugen said that Roma exoduses to western countries might complicate EU negotiations concerning the chapter on the free movement of persons. Some EU members fear the Roma will take advantage of this possibility and migrate to older EU member countries once Slovakia joins the union. However, he ruled out the adoption of discriminatory measures against Slovakia.

Kukan signs Minority Languages Charter

Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan signed the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages on February 20 in Strasbourg in the presence of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer. The Charter aims at preventing the decline of minority languages spoken by millions of people living in countries in the Council of Europe.
To date, Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania, Spain, Ukraine, Great Britain and Macedonia have signed the Charter.
The Charter in Slovakia, which must be ratified by the Slovak parliament, stipulates that minority language protection applies to any area of the country where a minority exceeds 20% of the population. In Slovakia, the document will protect nine minority languages: Hungarian, Czech, Croatian, Bulgarian, German, Polish, Romany, Rusyn, and Ukrainian.

Compiled by Chris Togneri from SITA and TASR

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