[Human Rights] HRC / 22nd Session, Interactive Dialogue with the IE on minority issues
Thank you Mr. President.
Austria would like to thank you for the comprehensive presentation and your thematic report that this year is focusing on the important issue of challenges to the enjoyment of the rights of linguistic minorities. We appreciate that your work continuously takes into account the views of persons belonging to minorities and NGOs.
We believe that with regard to linguistic minorities, the minority rights principles of non-discrimination, equality, participation and consultation must be equally respected. In this regard, we also share your assessment that fulfilling the rights of persons belonging to minorities, including their language rights is an essential means to prevent tensions from emerging and is a key element of conflict prevention. We would like to ask you in this regard for more information on your future work on this issue.
Austria considers the equal access to education as well as education in the mother tongue of persons belonging to minorities as essential in order to form an inclusive society. At the national level, in addition to German, the languages of the six legally recognized ethnic groups, i.e. Croatian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak and Romani, play a special role in the school system, those ethnic groups have their legal right to mother-tongue education. Furthermore, native-language classes in more than 20 languages are available for children from other ethnic groups in Austria, especially in Vienna.
With regard to minority-language use in names, places names and public signs, we would like to recall the successful conclusion in 2011 of the decade long discussion in Austria about the number of bilingual street signs in the southern province of Carinthia. A compromise package was signed by all parties concerned, including a list of those municipalities in Carinthia where topographic inscriptions and names are to be affixed in two languages. This broadly accepted list was incorporated into the amended National Minorities Act from July 2011. Moreover, constitutional law provisions ensure that Croatian, Slovenian or Hungarian may be used as official languages, in addition to German.
Austria strongly believes that the views of young people from minority communities must be effectively taken into account. While they face different challenges and have different perceptions of their identity, there is a strong desire and the individual right to maintain their mother tongue. Against this background, Austria would like to ask you whether you are planning to focus more on the issue in the future.
Austria is of the view that cooperation and information sharing between the relevant stakeholders at national, regional and international level is key in order to protect and promote the rights of linguistic minorities. In this context, we would like to know more about your cooperation with UNESCO, the OSCE and the Council of Europe on this issue.
Finally, we would like to commend you for guiding the proceedings of the last session of the Forum on minority issues that was focusing on the implementation of the Minority Declaration, and for your active participation in the various events celebrating the 20th anniversary of this important document.
I thank you.