EFA takes action to protect the Slovenian language in Carinthian schools
Following a motion unanimously approved in the last General Assembly, the European Free Alliance and Enotna Lista have contacted the Carinthian and Austrian authorities and the Head of Unit for Schools and Multilingualism at the European Commission
The protection of minority languages is one of the key priorities for EFA, and central to our goal to build a Europe of All Peoples. For this reason, the party has recently taken action to protect the Slovenian language in the schools of the Austrian state of Carinthia. After unanimously approving a motion presented by our member party Enotna Lista in the last General Assembly, the European Free Alliance has contacted the Carinthian and Austrian authorities, as well as the European Commission to express their concerns about the insufficient level of Slovenian-language teaching in Carinthian schools, which could lead to the extinction of the Slovenian minority in the region.
The right to access education in one’s mother tongue is a cornerstone of minority rights. This is reflected in law: the Austrian language law of 1991 requires that, in bilingual areas of Carinthia, teaching should be provided in an equal division between German and Slovene. However, teaching in practice remains deficient. The proportion of children with knowledge of Slovene when entering primary school is only 5%. Moreover, after four years of theoretically studying an approximately equal amount of German and Slovene, most pupils still struggle to follow lessons in Slovene in middle school. The Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages identified this, resulting in a lack of continuity between primary and secondary levels as a key concern regarding the teaching of Slovene in Austria. In response to this situation, EFA and its member parties requested Carinthian and Austrian authorities to better monitor and enforce the requirements for bilingual teaching and to issue sanctions in case of non-compliance.
Feeling that the regional authorities were not taking sufficient action, and in order to bring a European dimension to the issue, the party has also addressed the Head of Unit for Schools and Multilingualism of the European Commission, Mr Michael Teutsch, to raise awareness about the situation. A letter signed by EFA President, Ms Lorena López de Lacalle, and the Chairman of Enotna Lista, Mr Gabriel Hribar, was sent to the official in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture. The document contextualised the recent information and events in the region and drew attention to the insufficient results in Austria even despite the legal requirement for equal teaching tie in minority and majority languages. In their letter, Ms López de Lacalle and Mr Hribar asked Mr Teutsch which measures the Commission can put into action to promote the use of minority languages in schools, ensure that bilingual pupils develop sufficient capacities in their teaching languages, and guarantee that member states meet their obligations concerning this issue.