The revision of the Minority Languages Act in Slovakia has been stirring up emotions on both benches of parliament and within the coalition for some time, but now the coalition has pushed through its law.
Thanks to a string of negotiations and compromises, the coalition eventually backed the amendment to include the provisions motioned by former SaS MP Igor Matovic, which had already received the full support of the KDH party, with Most-Hid’s demands being the main stumbling block.
The original draft, hardly resembling the adopted version, was submitted by deputy PM Rudolf Chmel from Most-Hid, and received 78 votes, which the coalition parties regard as a great achievement considering only 79 coalition seats in parliament.
The vote was eagerly watched over by the Hungarian Ambassador to Slovakia, Antal Heizer, who was greeted with jeers and whistling from the opposition parties Smer-SD and SNS, which are strongly against the current revision.
The new revision eases up the requirements and demands put on local councils and public institutions, as they no longer will have to provide communication in a minority language at a threshold of just 15%, with the original 20% threshold being kept in place until after 2021.
The revision also scraps the proposed nationwide entitlement to use a minority language at public institutions, and hospitals and other public service facilities have been waived of the requirement to hire translators where required.
Head of Most-hid, Bela Bugar, praised the agreement, saying that although his party had to make a compromise, it was a great achievement by the coalition and one that would impact Slovakia positively.
The opposition have been referring to the law as anti-national, senseless and even dangerous, pointing to what is coined here as ‘Hungarian-isation’. They feel the new law is overly-protective and too benevolent.
The law will now be passed to President Ivan Gasparovic, who will most probably refuse to endorse it, but as Bela Bugar pointed out, with such strong support for the law in the coalition, there is a good chance the coalition will bypass the presidential veto with 76 votes. The law would then take effect from 1 July this year.