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PfD 2009
Commission will ‘closely monitor’ Slovak language law situation Print E-mail
Friday, 27 November 2009

In Tuesday’s Parliament debate with Commissioner for Multilingualism Leonard Orban, initiated by acting national minority and regional language Intergroup leader Kinga Gal, the Commissioner said that the Commission will “closely monitor” the situation with the implementation of the controversial Slovak language law. The law restricts the usage of languages other than Slovak in the public sector, backed with the threat of fines up to 5,000 euro set to be imposed after January. 

Commissioner Orban’s speech reflected the new scenario after the Lisbon Treaty’s ratification, placing linguistic and national minority rights firmly within the broader framework of human rights and indicating the position that the Commission will take on the issue in future.

“Member States remain therefore the decision-makers with respect to their internal language policy, including on regional and minority languages.’ He said, continuing, “The protection of persons belonging to national minorities is an integral part of the respect for human rights, which is one of the principles on which the Union is founded, as reflected in Article 6 of the EU Treaty. Member States should therefore use all legal instruments available to them in order to guarantee the rights of the persons belonging to national minorities in accordance with their own constitutional order and their obligations and commitments under international law. The latter include, for example, the Council of Europe's European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which provides a comprehensive framework in this matter, and the recommendations of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as also recalled by the European Parliament on previous occasions."

The following debate discussed many matters affecting national and linguistic minorities in today’s Europe with comments from Basque, Welsh and Catalan MEPs. However, the focus of the debate remained the Slovak language law issue with many MEPs strongly criticising it and pointing to its discriminatory nature.

In response, Commissioner Orban underlined how the policy of multilingualism can help to build bridges.

On the Slovak law he stated that: “On the Community level I will stress the following. This law will be applied broadly and at the moment its almost impossible to evaluate all the possible repercussions of the application of this law. The implementation of the law is the key issue and in this context I would like to underline that the European Commission is going to closely monitor the implementation of the Slovak law and we are going to monitor the way in which the law will function.”

Commissioner for Fundamental Rights will have portfolio for national and linguistic minority rights

Earlier in the day Kinga Gal questioned Commission President Barroso whether he intends to incorporate the issue of autochthonous national and linguistic minorities into the portfolio of the new Commissioner for Fundamental Rights?
Mr Barroso replied 'The answer is simple, Yes. My intention is that I will put responsibility for non discrimination issues under the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, including the issues of minorities."(Davyth Hicks, Eurolang-EBLUL 2009)

Watch the EP debate in full, see under 'Subjects', 'Use of minority languages...'

Commissioner Orban’s statement in full speaking_note_minority_language_use_2

Kinga Gal website http://www.galkinga.hu/en/

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