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Hungary to turn to UN against Slovak language law

By | August 4th 2009


Hungary will file a formal complaint to the UN Human Rights Council over neighbouring Slovakia's new language law, Foreign Minister Peter Balazs said on Monday.

The law, signed by Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic last month, stipulates that only Slovak may be used in most public offices and institutions. Repeat offenders face a fine of up to 5,000 euros ($7,125), nearly a year's average take-home pay.

Slovakia has a Hungarian minority of around 500,000, concentrated along its southern border with Hungary.

Balazs, quoted by the national news agency MTI, said after meeting President Laszlo Solyom that Hungary would also turn to the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe over the law.

Solyom's office said the law countered international treaties.

"Forced language assimilation is irreconcilable with the values of the European Union and international law protecting minorities," it said in a statement.

Hungarian parties have also condemned the Slovak law and have called for its withdrawal in a rare show of unity.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has said his country respected the rights of national minorities and that Hungarian politicians should not interfere into Slovakian matters.

Michael Gahle, vice-chairman of the European Parliament's foreign committee, said last month that Slovak legislation was discriminatory towards minorities that speak other languages and did not meet European standards.

Hungary ruled Slovakia within the Austro-Hungarian empire until its break-up after World War One and the creation of Czechoslovakia.

Relations between the neighbours worsened after Fico brought the far-right Slovak National Party, known for harsh rhetoric against minorities, into his coalition following a 2006 election.


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