Wednesday

18th Oct 2017

Opinion

Putting myths about the Slovak Language Act to rest

  • "In creating myths it lays a needless burden on Slovak-Hungarian relations and spills some malice onto the international community" (Photo: EUobserver)

Voices have been heard recently in European institutions conveying discontent with the recently adopted amendment to Slovakia's State Language Act. But under a flood of criticism, arguments and counterarguments, the substance has been lost.

Slovakia is a member of communities built on the values of democracy – the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance. These shared values, partnership and forward- rather than backward-looking approach are what my country wishes to build our relations on with our Hungarian neighbours.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The past twenty years of experience have proved that all the countries in the region profit from mutual cooperation, and that it is beneficial for mutual relations in all areas. These relations are perfectly epitomised by the Visegrad group, a partnership of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia that reflects the proximity of interests and values shared by its members.

This is Slovakia's priority and primary interest as far as regional cooperation and relations with Hungary are concerned. We have proved many times that we are able to hold a reasonable partnership dialogue and cooperate with anyone who is ready to do the same.

Our commitment to a permanent bilateral dialogue that helps to build mutual confidence is a tool we are using in developing our relations with Hungarian partners. For quite some time we have been suggesting to our counterparts that they adopt the same approach, unfortunately not always with success. We have been waiting for several years now for an official visit by our president and prime minister to Budapest; invitations do indeed keep coming, but not concrete dates.

Nevertheless, I consider Slovak-Hungarian cooperation very good in many aspects. We have a framework agreement in place which provides a sound mechanism to resolve any mutual issues – it takes no more than one of the parties to make use of that mechanism whenever it deems necessary, ideally as soon as the first doubts or problems have emerged. In the case of the amendment to Slovakia's State Language Act, the mechanism was not used in time.

Blatantly misleading

I admit we have been surprised by the present blatantly misleading campaign against the amended State Language Act, a campaign where a good measure of truth and commonsense are drowned out by historicising and "hystericising" malicious, and sometimes even ridiculous, propaganda. In creating myths it lays a needless burden on Slovak-Hungarian relations and, gratuitously, spills some malice onto the international community.

What is the amendment to Slovakia's State Language Act really about? I want to confirm outright that the amendment only addresses issues pertaining to the use of the state language, and that it in no way restricts the use of minority languages in Slovakia. Where the text touches on the use of minority languages, it does so only in order to liberalise their use even more, that is, to broaden or simplify it.

The very essence of the amendment is to ensure that no Slovak citizen, irrespective of their ethnicity, feels disadvantaged or discriminated against in the territory of their country on the grounds of the language they speak. No minority in Slovakia is living in complete isolation from the majority population, contained only in itself. We are absolutely open to any expert examination of the amendment and its comparison with international and national practice in any EU member state. We are sure that Slovakia's State Language Act does not go beyond good European standards, and that it is nothing unusual in Europe.

The implementing instruction to the Act, as well as its actual application, will show how dishonestly the international community has been misled by the initiators of this campaign. We do not intend to force our opinion upon anyone, but we expect those who want to assess the Act to familiarise themselves with its wording and its independent legal analysis.

We do not wish to see the deliberate misinterpretation and politicisation of Slovakia's domestic legal regulation, which in no way restricts the rights of minorities and is not in breach of any of Slovakia's international commitments, overshadowing the good bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the region, thus enfeebling our general focus on combating the adverse social impacts of the economic crisis and the growing threat of extremism, nationalism and political radicalism.

These are the real problems that need to be solved, these require the increased attention and coordinated cooperation of the whole of Europe. Let us jointly seek the strength to confront the challenges of Europe's future, not its past.

The writer is Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic

Batteries set to 'charge' our economy

By 2025, the European battery sector will be worth €250 billion annually - the decisions we take now will decide where the jobs to serve it are created, says EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic.

Left flirting with antisemitism in EU parliament

It is outrageous that Leila Khaled, a member of a group listed by the EU as a terrorist organisation, was given a platform in the EU parliament, a body representing democracy and peaceful cooperation.

Left flirting with antisemitism in EU parliament

It is outrageous that Leila Khaled, a member of a group listed by the EU as a terrorist organisation, was given a platform in the EU parliament, a body representing democracy and peaceful cooperation.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish Court declares Catalan referendum law void
  2. EU to keep 'Dieselgate' letter secret
  3. No deal yet on Mediterranean alliance for EU agencies
  4. EU Commission condemns Maltese journalist's murder
  5. Poland denies wrongdoing over forest logging
  6. Risk to asylum kids in EU increasing, says charity
  7. Schroeder warns of Turkey and Russia drifting towards China
  8. EU parliament wants equal pay for posted workers

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  2. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  6. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  7. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  8. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  9. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  10. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  12. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year

Latest News

  1. EU rejects UK claim it's slowing Brexit talks
  2. Nepal troops arrive in Libya to guard UN refugee agency
  3. Is Banking Authority HQ the Brexit 'booby prize'?
  4. EU-Russia trade bouncing back - despite sanctions
  5. No sign of Brexit speed-up after May-Juncker dinner
  6. EU defence strategy 'outsourced' to arms industry
  7. EU privacy rules tilt to industry, NGO says
  8. Malta in shock after car bomb kills crusading journalist

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  2. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  3. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  4. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  6. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  8. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement
  9. CESIJoin CESI@Noon on October 18 and Debate On: 'European Defence Union: What Next?'
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Support Start-Ups
  11. ILGA EuropeInternational Attention Must Focus on LGBTI People in Azerbaijan After Police Raids
  12. European Jewish CongressStrong Results of Far Right AfD Party a Great Concern for Germans and European Jews