Vienna, 2 August 2013 Press release

Lopatka: Small ethnic groups deserve special support

Constitutional recognition of German-speaking ethnic communities in Slovenia is important to Austria

Vienna, 2 August 2013 – On 1 August 2013, the Gottscheer Cultural Week was opened by Austrian State Secretary Dr. Reinhold Lopatka and the Carinthian Governor Dr. Peter Kaiser in Krastowitz Manor in Klagenfurt. In his opening address, the State Secretary pushed for strengthening the rights of German-speaking minorities. "Support for the German-speaking community in Slovenia is a matter of great concern to me and the Austrian Government. I also support the demand of the ethnic group to be recognised as an autochthonous minority in the Slovene Constitution. Such a step requires time and mutual trust. With the positive resolution of the bilingual place name issue, Austria has made a major step forward in strengthening the rights of the Slovene community in Austria. We should leverage this positive development to ensure that progress is also made in the question of constitutional recognition of the German-speaking ethnic community in Slovenia." 

"The concerns of the Gottscheers and the German-speaking ethnic community are therefore always on the agenda of the regular bilateral meetings with our Slovene partners. I addressed the issue at my working visit to Ljubljana in April. In view of the excellent relationship between our two countries that is based on mutual trust, I am confident that an agreement in the issue of constitutional recognition will be reached", the State Secretary said.   

The Gottscheers are one of 300 ethnic groups in Europe and can look back on a long and eventful history dating back to the 14th century on the territory of today's Slovenia. Exactly how many descendants of Gottscheers live world-wide today is unknown. When Slovenia joined the EU this also opened up new opportunities for the culture and identity of the Gottscheers as cultural and linguistic diversity is a reality and an asset of the EU. "We will have to strengthen the awareness of this diversity and do everything in our power to preserve it and to pass on the cultural heritage to coming generations. Cultural associations and events such as the Gottscheer Cultural Week, that has been organised for fifty years, are important contributions to achieving this goal. They deserve political, and above all financial support so that they can successfully continue their activities", Lopatka concluded. 

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