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Culture minister says language act amendment is ‘natural and pragmatic’

Amendments to the State Language Act are not meant to be retrogressive, nor an attempt to conserve the language, said Culture Minister Marek Maďarič (Smer-SD) on April 16, reported the TASR newswire, after parliamentary debate on the omnibus bill drafted by the Culture Ministry on the official use of the Slovak language. “The aim of the amendment is natural and pragmatic. The state language should integrate all people, thus it has a crucial role in public communication as a uniting communication tool,” Maďarič said in reaction to reservations raised by ethnic Hungarian MP Agnes Biro.

Amendments to the State Language Act are not meant to be retrogressive, nor an attempt to conserve the language, said Culture Minister Marek Maďarič (Smer-SD) on April 16, reported the TASR newswire, after parliamentary debate on the omnibus bill drafted by the Culture Ministry on the official use of the Slovak language.

“The aim of the amendment is natural and pragmatic. The state language should integrate all people, thus it has a crucial role in public communication as a uniting communication tool,” Maďarič said in reaction to reservations raised by ethnic Hungarian MP Agnes Biro.

“...the amendment doesn't allow sanctions for individual acts of speech,” the minister assured parliament, ascribing the false impression to “myths and rumours” spread by the ethnic Hungarian SMK party. Biro replied to Maďarič that the Hungarian minority in Slovakia feels that they are both Slovak citizens and human beings.

If the amendment is passed, Czechs would be able to use their mother tongue in communication with Slovak government offices. The amendment also permits people to speak Czech on television and in radio broadcasts in Slovakia, and provides for live broadcasts in foreign languages with simultaneous translation into Slovak.

Programmes aimed at language teaching do not need to use Slovak, nor do theatrical pieces in foreign languages. The obligation to also use Slovak at cultural events where the Czech language is spoken has been cancelled, TASR wrote.

Non-standard use of the Slovak language in public speeches is allowed as well, as long as it is used with a functional purpose. Minorities can use their native languages at health care and social facilities in Slovakia provided that they do so in towns and villages where at least 20 percent of the inhabitants come from that minority.

Associations, political parties and social groups will have to prepare financial and technical reports and statutes both in the state language and in the language of the minority that runs the group.

Inscriptions on memorials, monuments and plaques must be written first in Slovak followed by the foreign language text in the same size or smaller font. The same applies to signs, advertising and announcements providing information to the public.

Construction companies must ask the Culture Ministry to approve inscriptions on the properties they construct in order to avoid additional corrections. If shortcomings and mistakes appear and these are not corrected after repeated requests by the Culture Ministry, a fine of from €100 to €5,000 may be imposed by the ministry.

The amendment was submitted to Parliament on April 11 but reservations were raised by public representatives and by the National Union of Employers. They asked that sections of the amendment that deal with the use of the state language in state offices be left out. They also said that the part adjusting rules pertaining to signs, advertising and announcements should be dropped and they were against the mechanism of fines and their sums, which they consider inappropriate. TASR

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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