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Slovakian report Slovakian report
by Euro Reporter
2009-08-05 10:00:16
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Towns and villages cry out for help

Slovak towns and villages are crying out that if they are not soon given help some municipalities, especially smaller ones, might collapse under the weight of the global economic downturn. The Club of Mayors of Towns of Slovakia says that even if towns and villages manage to hobble through 2009 by making budget cuts and other savings, 2010 will hit them even harder if no change is made to the way that towns and villages are financed.

Slovakia’s Association of Towns and Villages (ZMOS) has already been involved in negotiations with the Finance Ministry over the financial situation of local governments. “Some towns and villages are no longer able to fully perform some of their duties and services defined by law despite the savings measures they have applied,” Helena Poláková, spokeswoman of the association, commented. The situation differs among particular towns and villages with the smallest villages having the greatest problems, according to Poláková.


Language law row

In the relatively calm political atmosphere ushered in by the onset of summer in Slovakia, the State Language Act, passed by parliament at the end of June 2009, remains one area of turbulence. Criticism of the law has, from the very beginning, gone beyond the borders of Slovakia and Hungary. Not only has a visit by the highest Slovak representatives to Hungary been postponed due to the controversy over the law, but the international community has also been kept busy evaluating language and minority rights in Slovakia.

The amended State Language Act, which the Slovak president signed into law in mid-July, introduces fines of up to €5,000 for the use of incorrect Slovak from September 2009, and will also enable stricter official supervision of the use of ‘correct’ Slovak. According to the law, doctors, nurses and caretakers in health-care and social facilities in municipalities where a significant proportion of the population come from ethnic minorities may speak with patients and clients in the language of those minorities. If texts on memorials and plaques are written in both the state language and a foreign language, the foreign inscription may not be bigger than the inscription in the state language.

Some of these provisions have upset the Hungarian minority in Slovakia as well as representatives of Hungary itself. After the president remained deaf to their pleas to return the law to parliament, the speaker of the Hungarian parliament, Katalin Szili, sent her Slovak counterpart a joint declaration by Hungarian parliamentary parties on July 21 which calls on Slovakia to withdraw the amendment. The Alliance of Free Democrats – Hungarian Liberal Party's chairman, János Kóka, one of the signatories of the declaration, said it is necessary to use all available diplomatic means and those of international law to persuade Slovakia to annul the amendment before it comes into force in September.


Croatian police are protecting Slovak tourists

Croatia, traditionally one of Slovaks’ favourite seaside holiday resorts, has reinforced police patrols in areas with a high density of Slovak holidaymakers. The measure was taken to prevent any incidents in response to the Slovak police action against overzealous Hajduk Split football fans before the UEFA Cup third qualifying round in Žilina, Slovakia on July 30. Miroslav Lajčák, the Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister, asked his Croatian counterpart Gordan Jandrokovic to do everything possible to ensure a problem-free holiday stay for Slovak tourists, said the spokesperson for the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Peter Stano, as reported.

“In the context of the latest events linked with the incident involving Croatian football fans in the Slovak Republic we emphasize that police patrols have been reinforced in places where Slovak holidaymakers are staying. We believe there will be no more provocations,” reads the statement issued by the Croatian government after the phone call between the two ministers.

The Hajduk Split fan club, also known as Torcida, also issued a statement on its website calling on all Hajduk fans to be moderate in their behaviour towards Slovak tourists in Croatia. They claim the citizens of Žilina were very friendly and sympathetic and many of the Hajduk fans actually escaped from the hands of the police thanks to Žilina citizens who helped them to hide in their homes.

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