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Protection of national minority rights inconsistent in Austria, say Council of Europe experts

07 May, 2017 | 15:40

An opinion published today by the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) says that little has changed since 2012, when it had published its previous opinion.

Although bilingualism has become more accepted and equal access to education for minority language education is improving, this applies only to parts of the country. Austria’s advanced system for teaching and learning minority languages in Carinthia and in Burgenland, for example, including bilingual teaching, has not been matched for national minorities in other regions or in Vienna.

Access to rights contained in the Framework Convention of persons belonging to the Burgenland-Croat minority, the Slovene minority, the Hungarian minority, the Czech minority, the Slovak minority and the minority of the Roma still “varies significantly” depending on the region due to the unfinished reform of the National Minorities Act.

The opinion criticizes “very limited competencies” of Austria’s National Minority Advisory Councils, which were established to ensure adequate minority participation in decision making in government. More generally, the advisory committee says that consultation of national minorities on matters of their concern should be improved.

The Fourth opinion also reports on persistent discrimination against the country’s Roma, in both education and employment and calls on the authorities to step up their efforts to promote equal opportunities in access to education and to the labour market.

The Advisory Committee calls on the Austrian authorities to carry out three essential reforms:

  1. Engage in a comprehensive process of modernizing the legislative framework pertaining to national minorities with a view to ensuring the consistent application of the Framework Convention to all persons belonging to national minorities, based on an individual rights approach and on an article-by-article basis where appropriate;
  2. Ensure systematically full and effective equality before the law of all persons belonging to national minorities by guaranteeing effective access to a legal remedy to challenge the denial of minority rights, including language rights;
  3. Prioritise the reform of the National Minority Advisory Councils to ensure that they constitute a functional mechanism through which persons belonging to national minorities can participate effectively in all relevant decision-making processes, beyond the allocation of cultural support.

The text of the opinion was published together with the Government’s comments.

coe.int


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