Austria: Six languages under protection, more needed to promote their use in public life, administration

Strasbourg, France 4/04/2018
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Austria: Six languages under protection, more needed to promote their use in public life, administration

In Austria the overall situation regarding the protection of minority languages has not significantly changed since 2012, says a new report by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages.  The Charter provisions concerning Burgenland-Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Romani, and Slovakian and Slovenian languages are more actively applied in the domains of education, justice, administration and culture than in the broadcast media, the report notes.

Measures have been taken to improve minority language teaching, especially teacher training and all languages are present in all levels of education. However, structural problems, primarily related to enrolment regulations, remain, and this leads to discontinuity from primary to secondary level, and impacts the quality of education. Moreover, the history and the culture reflected by the minority languages are not present in the general curriculum.

The report was published together with the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to the Austrian authorities. The Committee of Ministers calls on Austria to adopt a structured policy for the protection and promotion of all minority languages, especially in Vienna, and create favourable conditions for their use in public life, as well as include in the general curricula an adequate presentation of the history and the culture which is reflected by the regional or minority languages in Austria.

The speakers of regional and minority languages in Austria have the right to use these languages in administration and judicial procedures. However, in practice they rarely avail themselves of this opportunity: only the use of Slovenian in the state of Carinthia is noted, while Burgenland-Croatian or Hungarian in Burgenland is not used. The Committee of Ministers recommends taking practical measures for the use of the Burgenland‑Croatian, Hungarian and Slovenian languages before the relevant judicial and administrative authorities.

Radio and television broadcasting in Burgenland-Croatian and Slovenian is by and large satisfactory. There are also weekly newspapers in both languages, but their situation is precarious. The other four minority languages are present in the media as well, but their offer, especially on television, could be expanded. The Committee of Ministers also recommends securing adequate funding for newspapers in Burgenland-Croatian, Hungarian and Slovenian.

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages entered into forced in Austria in 2001.