The Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition), together with the National Committee of Hungarians from Slovakia and the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation, issued a statement denouncing the recently passed anti-minority language law in Slovakia. The statement calls upon American policy makers to urge Slovakian leaders to repeal the discriminatory provisions of the State Language Law and to recreate the law in a form that guarantees genuine equality for minority languages and the state language alike, in conformity with Slovakia’s international obligations.
On June 30, 2009, the National Council of the Slovak Republic approved a Government-proposed amendment to the Act on the State Language of the Slovak Republic. The revised State Language Law mandates the use of the Slovak language and limits the use of minority languages to the areas where the statutory provisions explicitly allow it. This is a devaluation and discrimination against Slovakia’s minorities, which make up 15 percent of the country’s total population – in particular, the 526,000-strong historic Hungarian community.
According to the modified law, to name only a few examples, all employees of the local government, public administrative entities, and transportation or communications companies must use the Slovak language in official communications. The police, firefighting personnel, emergency medical service providers, and civil defense personnel are obligated to use only the Slovak language in their official capacities, and citizens who are members of national minorities may not use their native language with these employees. An exception is made only for communications within particular settlements whose local minority population exceeds 20% of the total. In addition, all public cultural and educational events for minority-language audiences must include a Slovak-language introduction; and minority-language schools are required to run their administration and internal documentation in both languages, with a priority given to Slovak. When the law comes into force on September 1, 2009, Slovakia will be the only EU member country to punish people for using their own language. After an initial warning, the Ministry of Culture has the right and the duty to impose sanctions in the amount of 100 to 5,000 Euros for inappropriate use of minority languages and incorrect use of the Slovak language
The full text of the Coalition statement is attached to this press release.