The Slovenia Times

Austrian President Signs Bilingual Posts Law


The law will step into force when it is published in the Austrian official gazette and the province of Carinthia is to start erecting new signs in settlements with at least 17.5% of the Slovenian population in mid-August.

On 16 August, when the first signs are to be put up in Bad Eisenkappel/Zelezna Kapla and Sittersdorf/Zitara vas, a special ceremony will take place in the provincial capital of Klagenfurt to mark the start of the process. Austrian authorities hope to have all the new signs erected by autumn.

The law envisaging German-Slovenian bilingual place names for 164 settlements in Carinthia and regulating the use of Slovenian, Croatian and Hungarian as official languages in Austria was endorsed by the lower chamber on 6 July and got through the upper chamber last week.

Ahead of Fischer's signing, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann held a reception where top state officials, Carinthian Governor General Gerhard Doerfler, chief negotiator and State Secretary Josef Ostermayer and representatives of the Slovenian minority praised the compromise that led to the constitutional law.

The compromise was the right solution at the right time and brings great political progress, Fischer said, while Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger stressed it was the result of Doerfler's, Ostermayer's and the minority's will to compromise.

The head of the Association of Slovenian Organisations (ZSO) Marjan Sturm meanwhile stressed at the reception that there was no alternative to dialogue, referring to the Friday's extreme rightist attacks in Norway.

According to Sturm, a chapter in the minority's history has been closed, but the work is not done, as further efforts will be needed to overcome prejudice and bitterness in Carinthia.

Doerfler, the head of the biggest political party in Carinthia, the provincial branch of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), admitted that he "was a part of conflict times" but added that Austria and Carinthia have now shown they can overcome divisions.

The National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS), the minority organisation that had been the loudest to protest against the law, claiming it did not fully follow the agreement from April, welcomed in a press release today the planned erection of bilingual signs in 72 additional settlements.

The NSKS however called for further efforts for building a "new Carinthia" and a "Carinthia where all potentials are revealed, all talents are developed and all opportunities are used".


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