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August 4, 2009

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Hungary to complain over Slovak-only language law

HUNGARY will file a formal complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Council over neighboring Slovakia's new language law, Foreign Minister Peter Balazs said yesterday.

The law, signed by Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic last month, stipulates that only Slovak may be used in most public offices and institutions. Repeat offenders face a fine of up to 5,000 euros (US$7,125), nearly a year's average take-home pay.

Slovakia has a Hungarian minority of about 500,000, concentrated along its southern border with Hungary.

Balazs said after meeting President Laszlo Solyom that Hungary would also turn to the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe over the law.

Solyom's office said the law countered international treaties. "Forced language assimilation is irreconcilable with the values of the European Union and international law protecting minorities," it said in a statement.

Hungarian parties have also condemned the Slovak law and have called for its withdrawal in a rare show of unity.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has said his country respected the rights of national minorities and that Hungarian politicians should not interfere into Slovakian matters.

Michael Gahle, vice-chairman of the European Parliament's foreign committee, said last month that Slovak legislation was discriminatory toward minorities that speak other languages and did not meet European standards.


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