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Slovenians in Hungary

Slovenians in Hungary

The Slovenian ethnic minority in Hungary

The Rába region lies alongside the Rába River near Szentgotthárd in Vas County between the Austrian and Slovenian borders of Hungary. Geographically, linguistically, culturally and ethnically it is part of the Prekmurje region, to which it was closely linked until 1919, when Prekmurje was annexed to Yugoslavia. The Rába region, however, remained part of Hungary. The region covers an area of 94 square kilometres. There are seven villages in the region with Slovenian population (Felsőszölnök/Gornji Senik, Alsószölnök/Dolnji Senik, Szakonyfalu/Sakalovci, Rábatótfalu/Slovenska ves, Apátistvánfalva/ Števanovci, Kétvölgy/Verica-Ritkarovci, Orfalu/Andovci).

Szentgotthárd is the economic and cultural centre of the Rába region, with a population of Hungarians and Slovenians. Slovenians also live outside the Rába region in Szombathely and in other villages of Vas County, Győr-Moson-Sopron County, Budapest, and dispersedly all over Hungary. According to the figures from the latest 2011 census, the number of ethnic Slovenes in Hungary is 2820; unofficial estimates suggest, however, that some 5000 Slovenians live in the country. The Slovenian ethnic community is one of the 13 minorities recognised in Hungary and protected by Hungarian law.

Two Slovenian organisations are active in the Rába region. In October 1990, a group of young intellectuals together with some older activists established a civic organisation called the Association of Slovenians in Hungary, based in Szentgotthárd. The Association of Slovenians is involved in the development of activities that ensure the preservation of the Slovenian identity abroad. The Association publishes the weekly newspaper Porabje (since 1991), and, since 1992, the television programme Slovenski utrinki is broadcast regularly. Radio Monošter (Szentgotthárd), the first independent Slovenian radio station, has been broadcasting since 2000. The radio and the editorial board have been operating since 1998 at the Lipa Slovenian Cultural and Information Centre in Szentgotthárd. Numerous cultural groups help preserve the rich folk culture under the auspices of the Association of Slovenians in Hungary.

The adoption of the National and Ethnic Minorities Act in Hungary in 1993 provided Slovenians with the possibility of setting up minority self-governments in Slovenian villages and the National Slovenian Self-Government based in Felsőszölnök with representation in Budapest. The fundamental law on the rights of minorities adopted by Parliament in 2011 also attempts to regulate the situation of ethnic minorities in Hungary.

The National Slovenian Self-Government has a role in walks of life of the Slovenian minority, from education to economic development: it also operates the bilingual ethnic elementary schools in Felsőszölnök and Apátistvánfalva. The current members of the National Slovenian Self-Government were elected on 9 January 2011.

The Association of Slovenians in Hungary and the National Slovenian Self-Government actively cooperate, since the functions of the two organisations overlap and complement each other in all areas of the Slovenian minority’s life.
The minorities in both countries – the ethnic Slovenian minority in Hungary and the ethnic Hungarian minority in the Republic of Slovenia – stand in the centre of bilateral relations. Both parties aim to ensure that the minority groups serve as a link between the two countries and that open issues be solved through dialogue and the effective mechanisms already in place. The countries support dialogue between the minorities, which is enabled by the cooperation agreement on culture, education and European projects signed by the National Slovenian Self-Government, the Association of Slovenians in Hungary and the Hungarian Ethnic Community Self-Government of Prekmurje.

The cooperation of the Rába region Slovenian ethnic minority is of key importance in projects that reach beyond the border and strictly fit into the European framework. The Slovenian Country Public Service Non-profit Ltd based in Szentgotthárd is of great help in the promotion and strengthening of such forms of cooperation, since their main profile is cooperation across borders, development projects, and the strengthening of the community’s economic background with the help of EU subsidies.

The preservation of the Slovenian minority in Hungary as well as enabling its development is a fundamental duty of the Embassy. At the initiative of the Embassy and with the cooperation of the Slovenian faculty of the Eötvös loránd university of Sciences (ELTE), the Budapest Academic Slovenian Language Society was founded on 18 March 2013. Its main aim is to disseminate information and gather further knowledge pertaining to Slovenia and Slovenians, as well as promote the Slovenian language and raise the level of its usage in Budapest and elsewhere in Hungary. Within this framework, the society organises cultural, educational and social events, as well as trips to Slovenia.

The commitment towards the Slovenian ethnic minority in Hungary is well-reflected by the visits to the Rába region of the Minister for Slovenians Outside the Borders, Ms Tina Komel. During these visits she regularly meets with the chairman of the National Slovenian Self-government Márton Ropos, the chairman of the Association of Slovenians in Hungary József Hirnök and the representatives of other Slovenian organisations, with the aim of helping Slovenians in Hungary. In September 2013, she attended the Rába region day in Szentgotthárd, where she emphasised that both Slovenia and Hungary are aware that the ethnic communities provide a special economy, which opens new boundaries, inspire and strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries. She also stressed that the challenges the two communities face should be dealt with together through dialogue. She also assured the Rába region Slovenians of the continued support of the Bureau for Slovenians Outside the Borders. Speaker of The Parliament of the Republic of Slovenia, Janko Veber also visited the Rába region Slovenian community in the course of his official visit to Hungary in September 2013.

On 2 October 2013, at the 14th session of the Hungarian-Slovenian Joint Committee in Szentgotthárd, summoned with the purpose of observing the agreement on ensuring special rights to the Slovenian ethnic minority living in Hungary and the Hungarian minority living in the Republic of Slovenia, the main focus was on topical issues of education, media, culture and infrastructural ties. They also adopted specific proposals concerning both parties. Such meetings are of crucial importance from the aspect of the continued existence of both communities and the improvement of their situation. The Hungarian and Slovenian parties agreed to hold the next session of the committee in Slovenia in 2014.