Vollebaek: Slovak Language Act non-discriminatory if properly implemented

High Commissioner for National Minorities from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Knut Vollebaek reiterated in Bratislava on Wednesday, September 16, that the amendment to Slovakia's State Language Act does not contravene international standards, and neither endangers nor discriminates against anybody. Speaking at a press conference in the Slovak capital, he said that this did not mean that the law is perfect, but added "it's a law that can be worked with to ensure its proper implementation."

High Commissioner for National Minorities from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Knut Vollebaek reiterated in Bratislava on Wednesday, September 16, that the amendment to Slovakia's State Language Act does not contravene international standards, and neither endangers nor discriminates against anybody. Speaking at a press conference in the Slovak capital, he said that this did not mean that the law is perfect, but added "it's a law that can be worked with to ensure its proper implementation."

According to the commissioner, the application of the legislation and the elimination of any negative impact upon minorities can be secured through detailed and obligatory rules. At the same time, he said it is important to ensure that until these rules are drawn up the law is not be applied in an arbitrary manner. With respect to the controversial response that the law has garnered, Vollebaek said that "some of the critical points were fair and constructive; while some of the criticism was misleading and exaggerated".

Slovak Culture Minister Marek Maďarič assured Vollebaek that Slovakia will embrace his recommendations regarding the act. He added that in the process of drafting the instructions the ministry will fully cooperate with experts from the high commissioner's office. Vollebaek cautioned that these methodical instructions must be created in a transparent way, using a process can that include politicians, civic associations and minorities. The instructions concerned should chiefly cover, for instance, official communication, geographical names in textbooks, non-periodical publications and memorial plaques. According to Vollebaek, the introduction of penalties for violations of the law is not a very good idea. However, he added that it's not illegal, and that Slovakia is fully entitled to introduce these measures.

Vollebaek also backed an 11-point declaration approved by Slovak and Hungarian Prime Ministers Robert Fico and Gordon Bajnai on September 11. Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák, upon whose invitation Vollebaek's visit to Slovakia took place, noted that a mixed Slovak-Hungarian commission will meet on September 25, with experts from the OSCE High Commissioner's Office to be invited as well. TASR

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.

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