The Slovenia Times

The Bilingual Sings of Good Relationship


"Today we are sending a message that we will focus on the future with the benefit of our people in mind. We will solve the present and future challenges together. We respect the political, national and every other difference between us," Pahor said in his address at the ceremony in Austria's Klagenfurt.

The ceremony, also attended by Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, marked the start of the implementation of the agreement on German-Slovenian town signs which was reached in April between the Slovenian minority and Austrian authorities and which envisages bilingual city limit signs in 164 localities in Carinthia.

Pahor added that the implementation of Article 7 of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty, which also safeguards the Slovenian minority, was an important signal for Slovenia.

"This does not mean that Article 7 has become obsolete, but the action of the Austrian authorities is action in the right direction," said the Slovenian prime minister.

Faymann meanwhile pointed to the diversity of Carinthia, including the bilinguality. "We are proud of Carinthia and its diversity. It can serve as an example for the entire Austria."

While he noted that the issue of bilingual city limits had been accompanied by hatred and fear in the last 50 years, Faymann stressed that every relationship needed a firm basis, mutual respect and the feeling that everybody is equal.

The ceremony was also attended by Minister for Slovenians Abroad Bostjan Zeks, Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, and representatives of the Slovenian minority in Austria and of the Carinthian authorities.

Pahor and Faymann also attended the erecting of the first sign in Bad Eisenkappel/Zelezna Kapla. Pahor said that this was a milestone coming upon the 20th anniversary of Slovenia's independence. "This is not the end of the path, but a beginning, a beginning in the right direction."

The Austrian chancellor said that today was a "special day for Carinthia and a special day for Austria," adding that everybody should be as proud of their language as they were proud of their national costumes.

The erection of the signs was also welcomed by representatives of the National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS), a Slovenian minority organisation, and the Carinthian Unity List (EL), the only political party of the minority.

NSKS president Valentin Inzko said in a press release that this was a day of joy for all places which will get bilingual signposts, and Carinthian Unity List head Vladimir Smrtnik welcomed the "historic event for the entire Slovenian community".

The agreement on the signs, which also settles issues of minority education funding and the status of Slovenian as an official language in certain municipalities in the province, was brokered on 26 April after years of unsuccessful efforts.

The new arrangement encompasses the 91 settlements already included in a decision from 1977, as well as Bleiburg and Ebersdorf, where signs were erected by decree of the Constitutional Court.


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