Hungary to turn to UN over Slovakia's language law

4th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

Budapest is up in arms over a new language law in Slovakia that slaps fines of up to 5,000 euros on the use of minority languages such as Hungarian in government and other public services.

Budapest -- Hungary will turn to the United Nations over Slovakia's new language law which it regards as discriminatory to the Hungarian minority there, Foreign Minister Peter Balazs said Monday.

Hungarians make up 10 percent of Slovakia's population of over five million and Budapest is up in arms over a new language law in the neighbouring country that slaps fines of up to 5,000 euros (7,000 dollars) on the use of minority languages in government and other public services.

"Hungary is turning to the UN and the Council of Europe in connection with the Slovakian language law," Balazs said following a meeting with Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom, according to Hungarian newswire MTI.

The law amounted to "forced linguistic assimilation" which ran counter to the values of the European Union and international laws on the protection of minorities, Solyom's office said in a statement.

The head of the parliament's foreign affairs committee Zsolt Nemeth said Hungary would send a parliamentary delegation to Brussels and The Hague next month to lobby against the language law.

For its part, the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry dismissed Budapest's stance as "unhelpful and counter-productive."

"Slovakia has always sought solutions in a dialogue between Bratislava and Budapest," the ministry said in a press release, adding that Hungary's actions were not constructive.

In July, the Hungarian parliament adopted a declaration asking Slovakia to repeal the law and Budapest turned to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to help defuse the row between the two countries.

Relations between the two former Soviet bloc neighbours have been tense since 2006 when Jan Slota's far-right SNS party entered the government of Prime Minister Robert Fico.

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