SLOVAK HELSINKI COMMITTEE
REPORT ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FRAMEWORK
In the context of Central Europe, Slovakia is one of the most ethnically mixed countries. In the 10th century, Slovakia became a part of Hungarian Empire, then the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The situation remained unchanged until after the First World War, when a new state was established - the Czecho-Slovak Republic. During the Second World War, Slovakia existed as an independent state, as a satellite of Nazi Germany. After the War, Czecho-Slovakia was reunited. In 1968 Czecho-Slovak Socialistic Republic became a federation. After 1989, the both Czech and Slovak political leaders did not show sufficient will to continue and promote coexistence which led to a complete split of the state.The Slovak Republic was established on January 1, 1993. It needs to be emphasized that principally there are no regions in the SR in which the members of a national minority make up 100% of the population.
About 14% of Slovakia's population declare other than Slovak nationality, even though unofficial data (mainly concerning the Roma population) claim an even higher percentage of minority citizens. Thus, co-existence is vital for the development of the Slovak society -both economic and social. Ruthenians and Roma minorities - their language, culture and traditions face serious problems, which require special attention and a very sensitive approach.
Legal protection of minorities is closely connected with ongoing social changes. Parliamentary elections in September 1998 were won by then opposition parties, forming present government (together forming 60%).
After 1989, when the countries of the so-called "Eastern bloc" started their social, political and economic transition towards building plural democratic systems with market economies, specific changes in the situation and status of persons belonging to national minorities occurred as a part of the transition. The establishment of the sovereign SR in 1993 became another stimulus for these changes. The SR – as a new country in Europe – for the first time started to independently address these specific issues of a part of its population, its relationship to the new state and majority nation, the majority nation's relationship towards it, as well as relations between national minorities themselves. Besides problems common to all national minorities in Slovakia, it was also necessary to address the specific problem of the Romany minority, which lies in their worse economic, social, cultural and educational situation compared to the rest of the population.
Slovakia was not a standard country until the elections in 1998. Its representatives rejected the critique from abroad as exaggerated and not justified. Several formal steps needed for the integration into European structures were taken, but the implementation of the documents was lacking in practice.
Not everything changed after the parliamentary elections, since that is a long-lasting
process, but we can observe a change in the atmosphere. Slogan of the parliament and of
the government is stabilization, also in the area of human rights and minorities. Taking the
heterogeneity of the new coalition as well as the major problems in the economics into
account, the new government is facing difficult tasks.
Evaluation of the Fulfillment of the Convention By Article
Since its establishment on 1.1.1993, the SR has joined all important international political and legal documents related to the observance and protection of fundamental human rights and the rights of national minorities. Since 1993, the sovereign SR has also actively taken part in the preparation of further relevant documents at the United Nations (further referred to as the UN), the CE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (further referred to as the OSCE) and other international organizations and institutions. Equally, the SR made a substantial contribution to the preparation and creation of the Convention, including its oversight mechanism. The Government of the SR has organized a total of 11 visits by the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities to Slovakia. The last visit took place on 15-16.3.1999. In 1998, consultations with CE, EU and OSCE experts took place upon an initiative from the Government of the SR on issues concerning the assessment of the SR's existing legislation on the use of national minority languages. These consultations will continue in 1999 in line with an agreement between the international experts.
The SR's International Commitments
The SR's commitments in this area arise in particular from the following international
In the spirit of this Article, containing one of the fundamental principles of international law pacta sunt servanda, the Treaty on Good Neighborliness and Friendly Co-operation between the Slovak Republic and the Republic of Hungary, into which the text of the Convention was fully incorporated, was ratified. On 9.12.1998, the Government of the SR approved the Protocol between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Hungary concerning the creation of a mechanism facilitating the application of the Treaty.
There have been a few traumatizing topics in the Slovak-Hungarian relations in the past. Besides the politicized minority issue they included topics as not completing the Slovak-Hungarian Framework Treaty on the realization of the International Court decision in the case of the system of water dams in Gabcikovo-Nagymaros, or a project of a renewal of a bridge between two border towns.
The parliamentary elections in Hungary (May 1998) and in Slovakia (September 1998) were without a doubt crucial for the development of the Slovak-Hungarian relations in 1998. Participation of the Party of Hungarian Coalition in the ruling coalition helped neutralizing the relationship of the Slovak majority and the Hungarian minority.
A protocol helping to implement and evaluate the initial treaty was signed at the occasion of the Hungarian Prime-minister visit in Bratislava. That served as a basis for creating a flexible mechanism granting an efficient co-operation.
The Slovak Prime Minister was invited to participate at the meeting of the three Visegrad Prime ministers. The Slovak-Hungarian relations were reestablished on the basis of the revitalized Visegrad line.
There is no legal definition of the term national minority in the SR's legislation at present. Equally, there is no formal system for the official recognition of national minorities. The existence of national minorities is based on the individual fundamental rights of persons belonging to national minorities enacted in the Constitution of the SR, other relevant domestic laws and international legal documents. Official statistics (the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic engages in demographic statistics in the SR) derived from censuses show that at present there are a total of 11 national minorities in the SR, which are stated in the following table. There are no other original ethnic groups or national minorities in Slovakia besides these national minorities.
Structure of Nationalities in the SR
The Hungarian minority
The Romany minority
Provisions of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities in the Slovak Republic are applied and interpreted in various ways and are not adhered to in the case of Romas.
The Czech minority
The Ruthenian minority
The Jewish minority
Comment to the Criminal Code and its implementation: in case of violation of rights of Roma individuals, the law enforcement agencies interpret individual provisions of the Law in Roma cases in accordance with the common law. Thus the Romanies are punished regardless of whether they were involved in the conflict at the side of prosecutor, defendant and complainant. Race and minority background is the most important criteria for the investigation agencies or courts in their decision making. The prosecution, police and courts are blind and speechless even when there are cases of physical attacks against Romanies by extreme groups with evident racial motivation; when some constitutional representatives constantly offend Romanies with their declarations and disseminate hatred against them. Statements like: ....What you need for Romanies is a long whip and a small yard..." are left without any notice by the prosecution.
According to sociological surveys, about 70% of the members of the Hungarian national minority use their mother tongue at home. This right is guaranteed and this area of linguistic rights is not limited or regulated by any legal norm.
The issue of national minority culture in the SR primarily falls under the scope of the Ministry of Culture, which has established a special unit for this purpose – the Minority Cultures Section. Issues of religion are also under the responsibility of this Ministry. The co-ordinating body for national minority issues is the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights, National Minorities and Regional Development.
In line with the Policy Statement of the Government of the SR of 2 December 1998, the
Ministry of Culture carried out some changes in support for minority cultures (particularly
in the manner of provision of funds), with the aim of ensuring objectivity and transparency
in the provision of financial resources to members of national minorities from the state
In the past, the Ministry of Culture provided funds on the basis of a contract between the Ministry of Culture and the relevant legal or physical person which had submitted a project concerned with the development of a minority culture. All submitted projects were evaluated by one expert commission for minority cultures set up by the Minister of Culture, which was made up of members of national minorities (Hungarian, Croatian, German, Romany, Jewish, and Ukrainian) and experts on minority cultures from state bodies and scientific institutes.
On the basis of the Policy Statement of the Government of the SR, a Minority Cultures Section was established at the Ministry of Culture to initiate new approaches to the development of the culture of members of national minorities and participate in the creation of new legal norms and intra-sectoral orders related to the creation of conditions for members of national minorities in line with the Constitution of the SR and international documents.
Conditions for the preservation of the cultural identity of persons belonging to national minorities are also created in the public media, such as Slovak Radio and Slovak Television. Broadcasts for members of national minorities and ethnic groups on Slovak Radio, for which SKK 26,412,642 was provided, totaled 2911 hours in 1997. Broadcasts for members of national minorities on Slovak Television, for which SKK 9,626,000 was used, totaled 48 hours in 1997.
Review of the Use of Provided Funds by Individual Contributions and Subsidies from the Ministry of Culture in 1998
According to official statistics, there were a total of 15 cases of racially motivated crimes in Slovakia in 1997. This includes cases processed by courts of the SR and closed by a court ruling. According to the Office of Legal Defence in Kođice, there were a total of 33 cases of racially motivated crimes in Slovakia in 1998.
Relations between persons of Hungarian ethnic origin and citizens of Slovak origin in the ethnically mixed areas of southern Slovakia are friendly, non-confrontational and stabilized as a result of long-term co-existence. Ruthenians and Ukrainians compete with each other over the theoretical identification of their own historical origin and some other questions.
Within the framework of the plural political system, along with others, 18 political parties operate in which citizens of the SR affiliated with individual minorities associate. Of these, 3 political parties and movements associate citizens of Hungarian ethnic origin, 14 political parties and movements were established by citizens from the Romany minority and 1 political party associates citizens affiliated with Ruthenians and Ukrainians.
The Jewish community protests that Slovakia has not yet passed a law which would, at
least partially alleviate wrongdoing and crimes committed against Jews during the First
Slovak State. It criticizes the insufficient or even non-existent legal norms and executive
directives for compensating of victims of racial persecution and for property settlement of
natural entities in cases where the original Jewish owner was murdered and his property
Associations and Foundations of National Minorities Registered at the Ministry of the Interior
With regard to unions, societies, clubs, or various civic interest associations, 149 minority associations operated in Slovakia in 1998. Of these, 63 were associations of citizens with a Hungarian ethnic background, 59 Romany, 17 Ruthenian or Ukrainian, 4 German, 2 Croatian, 1 Polish, 1 Bohemian, 1 Moravian and 1 association of citizens of Bulgarian ethnic origin.
According to information from the Ministry of the Interior, there are approximately 760 non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Slovakia. This number fluctuates because some of them cease to exist while new NGOs are being established.
After the parliamentary elections in 1998, the new management of Slovak Television has promised to develop new program structure, which would provide more broadcasting time for programs in minority languages. There are plans to have 10 minutes of daily broadcasting for the Hungarian and Ruthenians minorities and the broadcasting time in minority languages should be extended to 1 hour on the weekends. There should be 30 minutes of broadcasting for Roma minority, at least once a month. There are currently additional proposals for broadcasting in Czech, German, Srbo-Croatian and Bulgarian. Broadcasting for the Jewish community, which is perceived more as a "religious minority" remains open issue.
Regional media broadcasting in four cities in Southern Slovakia (Komárno, Dunajská Streda, Rožňava, Veľký Meder) is partially in Slovak, partially in Hungarian.
The Czech Association claims that during the previous government (led by Vladimír Mečiar), people did not declare nationalities other from Slovak because they often had to face negative attitude. The biggest problem of the Association has a lack of financial resources for publishing regular media and other publications. Previously, Czech print media was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. Currently, broadcasting for the Czech minority is in process of preparation. Czechs living in Slovakia have faced a problem of obtaining double citizenship. However, people applying for it have achieved some initial successes. On the top of that, representatives from the Czech minority have asked the government to award a special status to Czech language in the Law on Language being prepared.
The representatives of the German minority report that the daily news in the public television does not inform a common viewer about the life of Germans living in Slovakia. This statement is true about other minorities as well. Experience shows that only that minority, which is talked about, watches the broadcasting on minorities. Education towards multiculturalism and in the area of human rights is still only a part of strategic plans of the governing institutions.
The situation of the Roma minority is specific. Media bring news and other journalistic genres about their life, but these usually only contain negative information. The Slovak Helsinki Committee is finishing the project Image of the Roma in the Slovak Media in the meantime. The outcomes of the monitoring of the main dailies and the news in two televisions confirm the imbalance of the information about the Roma. The project proved the fact, that the media contribute to the negative attitude of the majority towards the Roma, even though they have a chance to change the situation
To support the reinforcement of knowledge of the Slovak language – as the state language in the Slovak Republic – the Ministry of Education has passed and secured the publication of a spelling book in the Romany and Slovak languages for the 1st and 2nd year of primary and special schools and a reading book in the Romany-Slovak language for primary school pupils. In 1995, the textbook "Amari abeceda – Naša abeceda" (Amari Alphabet – Our Alphabet) was approved and published for 3rd and 4th year primary school pupils. Students from the Romany minority who meet the conditions for further study at secondary schools can study at any secondary school in the SR. Conditions were created specially for Romany students to study at the Secondary Pedagogical School in Levoča, Secondary School of Arts in Košice and Conservatory in Košice. The Ministry of Education, in co-operation with the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family, started the experimental testing of 3-year Construction Work courses on 1.9.1998. The students – prevailingly Roma – acquire a certain level of qualification in carpentry, painting and tinsmithery after each completed year.
In order to decrease the high number of unqualified teachers in primary schools, the Romany Culture Department of the Nitra Pedagogical University (now called the University of Constantine Philosopher) established a separate department in Spišská Nová Ves in the 1995/96 academic year. Under the co-ordination of the Romany Culture Department, this department secures, inter alia, the study of non-teaching subjects "Social and Educational Work" focused on Romany culture and training courses for young Romany women and unemployed Roma.
In 1996, the Ministry of Education, in co-operation with the Council of Europe, organized an international seminar called "Alternative Educational Process for the Adaptation of Disadvantaged Children and Youth to Family and Social Life" and in 1997 the international conference "Education for Neglected and Socially Disadvantaged Children".
All schools where the language of instruction is a national minority language are staffed with qualified teachers, whose professional growth and qualification is secured by legislation through various forms of training at the level of the State Pedagogical Institute in Bratislava and methodical centers in the SR.
Textbooks for all types of primary and secondary schools are purchased from the Ministry of Education budget. No special funds for the needs of schools with a minority language as the language of instruction are excluded. Textbooks and exercise books for schools with a minority language as the language of instruction are continuously approved, published and distributed to schools. Besides the purchase of new textbooks, the purchase of reprints of textbooks according to the requirements and financial possibilities of the sector is secured with the aim of completing textbook resources.
The Program Statement of the Government of Mikulas Dzurinda includes a guarantee of increasing the level of education of the people belonging to national minorities to the average level, as well as of preparing teachers teaching in the languages of national minorities. Since the representatives of the strongest national minority- Hungarian minority- are members of the government and of the parliamentary coalition, there is a hope for fulfillment of these promises. The major obstacle in its realization is a lack of financial means.
Just as in other areas, the situation in the area of education was influenced most of all by the economic situation. The debt of this department rose to over $ 3 billions Sk at the beginning of 1999. There is an ongoing feminization of the education and numerous professionals are leaving this field, which is true both about the Slovak schools as well as schools with the education in the language of national minorities. The level of average salary in education floats under the level of average wage in the state. These problems contribute to the overall stagnation in the field of education and to the less intensive process of creating new schools. Until September 1999, there were three demonstrations of teachers demanding raise of the wages and finishing of the sack.
According to statistics from 1992, there are 5,629 people of German nationality living in Slovakia. In 1998 six grammar schools were the awarded status of schools with German as the language of instruction (or where German as mother tongue is taught), schools under a common administration, one classroom for each grade. The first three grades are taught by foreigners. Their wages are subsidized by the German government. The subjects taught by them are German, partially arts (painting and musical education) and physical education. However, the situation in the upper grades is worse - there is lack in teachers of science and other specialized subject.
Ethnic and ethno-cultural development of the Romanies minority has not yet begun. There is not a single kindergarten; grammar school, high school or university where students or children can receive education in their mother tongue (Romany) and almost in none of these schools is the Romany language of instruction. There is only one high school aimed at educating talented students in music and drama and only one university department where Romany is taught. This situation demonstrates that Romanies still cannot exercise their right to an education in their mother tongue in Slovakia. Official education systems have not reacted adequately to Roma needs, which means suitable conditions have not been created (in accordance with provisions of Article 12,14,15). Measures shall be taken in the field of education, promotion of culture, history, language and religion, teacher preparation, support of equal opportunities for education at all levels for minority representatives. Further, the authorities shall have the opportunity to exercise their right to study minority language and create suitable conditions for their efficient participation in cultural, social and economic life and public affairs (especially those which have impact on them).
The German Non Profit Association criticizes the Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic for not approving German textbooks (in spite of the fact that the third volume is finished). Volumes of textbooks were made available to schools only thanks to the Gothe Institute in Bratislava and Regional Association of Carpathian Germans in Stuttgart.
At present, depending on the specific characteristics of individual minorities in the SR, the state and the intensity of their national awareness, as well as tradition, the education of national minorities takes place at:
The attempt of the former Minister of Education Eva Slavkovska to amend the Act on Education was resented by majority of the people. The aim of this amendment was to start teaching history and geography in Slovak language only at all schools, including schools with the teaching language of national minorities. This bill was not passed.
The school network processed according to summary data from the Institute for Information and Prognosis in Education as for the 1998/99 school year.
3.1. Gymnasium (G)
4. Special Schools with Hungarian as the Language of Instruction
a) 32 special schools 177 classes 1447 pupils
d) 13 integrated classes can be found at 8 primary and special schools for the mentally disabled, with 110 students (these schools are included under 2a) among primary schools with Hungarian as the language of instruction and under 4a) among special primary schools)
e)2 special secondary schools 6 classes 61 students
. All citizens of the SR, including persons belonging the national minorities, are guaranteed the right to actively participate in the country's political life by the Constitution. For national minorities, this right is also secured through their active work in political parties based on the ethnic principle. Members of the Hungarian minority have 15 political representatives in parliament (10%) and 3 ministers in the Government of the SR. They are also represented in the leadership of the parliament through a Vice-Chairman, the chairmen of the Committee for Human Rights and Minorities and Committee for Finance, Budget and Currency, and the vice-chairman of the Healthcare Committee. Other MPs are members of further parliamentary committees. The Hungarian national minority participates in the Government by holding the post of Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights, National Minorities and Regional Development, and the posts of Minister for the Environment and Minister of Construction and Public Works. Such representation should be seen as a substantial positive step for the Hungarian national minority in Slovakia and an expression of trust in its responsible approach to participation in governing and directing Slovakia.
Representatives of other national minorities are not present in the National Council because their political parties did not manage to attain the prescribed number of votes necessary for entry into the SR's legislative body (5%) in the parliamentary elections. However, national minorities are represented at the local level as a result of elections to these local administration bodies.
In the 1998 elections to municipal self-government bodies, 227 representatives of the Hungarian national minority acquired the office of mayor – of which 224 were candidates for the Hungarian Coalition Party and 3 were candidates for the Hungarian People's Movement for Reconciliation and Prosperity. 6 elected mayors were candidates for the Romany Civic Initiative in the SR.
3841 members of the Hungarian national minority were elected as members of municipal councils, of which 3773 were candidates for the Hungarian Coalition Party and 68 were candidates for the Hungarian People's Movement for Reconciliation and Prosperity. The Roma participated in the December1998 local elections mostly on the candidate lists of two parties or as independent candidates; they also ran for other parties. 56 Roma were elected for representatives in local assemblies, 6 were elected for mayors. Members of the local assembly in Petrova united against another elected Roma mayor and dismissed him after the vote of no-confidence, which was initiated right after he made the oath. Tibor Loran, the leader of one of the Roma political parties, became the prefect in the largest Roma quarter in Kosice (Eastern Slovakia).
Further representatives of national minorities have been elected as mayors and municipal council members as candidates of coalitions of various political parties.
In 1998, the Meciar's government submitted a bill, which was meant to change the system of election into local and town assemblies. Every village was meant to be a one multi-mandate election district. Where the percentage of the national and ethnic minorities reached 5%, the seats were to be proportionally divided to reflect the ethnic composition of the village. Nationally oriented Members of Parliament passed the bill. The group of opposition Members of Parliament requested the Constitutional Court to state the non-compliance of some of the articles with the Constitution. The Constitutional Court did state the non-compliance and the affected articles ceased to be valid.
In September 1998, the Government of the SR signed the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation Between Territorial Communities or Authorities, and the Additional Protocol to the Convention. Recently, the Ministry of the Interior submitted a proposal to the Government for joining the European Charter of Local Self-government.
During the meeting of prime ministers of the Slovak and Hungarian Republics on August 15, 1997 in Gor, ex-prime minister Mečiar proposed so called "free movement" of ethnic Slovaks from Hungary to Slovakia and ethnic Hungarians from Slovakia to Hungary and which would have to do change of citizenship of them. Both sides protested against such a proposal.
New movements in the Roma population started after the collapse of communism in the 90s. The Czech television station Nova added salt to the wound when it broadcast a document in 1997 about the easy and unproblematic life of Romas in Canada and actually invited them to go there. A Roma exodus has started. Many Czech and Slovak Romas have sold their property in order to buy tickets, to fly to Canada and ask for asylum. Upon failure, many Romas tried to get into Great Britain. In August 1998 about 800 Romas went to Great Britain from both the Czech and Slovak Republics, all of them seeking asylum. The indicated reason on their applications was that they were in exposed to danger in our republics, because of the skinhead presence. All of them were awarded temporary permission to stay until their cases are finalized.
The Prime Minister at that time, Mr. Vladimír Mečiar reacted as follows: ".. the Romas in Slovakia are not politically persecuted. Human rights for Romas, like all the citizens of the Slovak Republic, are granted by law.
In the June 1999 the emigration of Roma to Finland started. The intoducing visa obligatin
was the reaction of Finland Republic.
In the area of non-investment funds, 14 funds have been set up by members of the Hungarian national minority and 1 fund by members of the Romany minority.
In the sphere of non-profit organizations providing generally beneficial services, 1 non-profit organization has been established by members of the Hungarian national minority and 1 organization operates for members of the Romany minority.
For example the Polish club is open for everyone interested in Polish culture. It has three regional branches with Polish language schools attended by children who want to the native tongue of their parents or grandparents. They get acquainted with the history and present day life of Poland. The Polish organization Wspólnota Polska enables the children to attend summer camps, youth meetings and language courses. This organization unites Poles living all around the world.
The Polish Club publishes a magazine in Polish language, it annually organizes Days of Polish Culture and Days of Polish Music and it organizes and initiates exhibitions of Slovak artists in Poland.
The most recognized organization of this minority is the Association of Carpathian Germans in Slovakia. It publishes a monthly in German, which is subsidized from the state budget.
The representatives of the United States of America and of the European Union awarded three non-governmental organizations in Slovakia the prize for democracy and civil society. The foundations Inforoma and Jekhetane were awarded for their success in working with the Roma community.
The meeting of the presidents of Central European states named Civil Society - a Chance for United Europe, was an important event for the world of the non-governmental sector. Eleven presidents met in Slovakia. Michal Kovac, as a president of a hosting country, suggested the third sector for the main topic of the meeting. Thirteen representatives of Slovak non-governmental organizations, representing various areas and regions, were given a chance to talk to the presidents.
The Slovak Republic has concluded bilateral agreements with its neighbors that include provisions guaranteeing the protection of national minorities and support for transfrontier co-operation.
1/ Treaty on Good Neighborliness and Friendly Co-operation between the Slovak Republic and the Republic of Hungary of 1995 (Recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe No. 1201 forms a part of this Treaty)
2/ Treaty between the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic and the Republic of Poland on Good Neighborliness, Solidarity and Friendly Co-operation of 1991
3/ Treaty between the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany on Good Neighborliness and Friendly Co-operation
4/ Treaty between the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic on Good Neighborliness, Friendly Relations and Co-operation
5/ Treaty on Good Neighborliness, Friendly Relations and Co-operation between the Slovak Republic and the Ukraine
The following bodies and institutions of the Slovak Republic have participated in
the preparation of this material: