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European ethnic languages charter takes effect in Czech Republic

Prague, 28.2.2007 19:01, (CTK)

People can turn to courts and authorities in Polish in the places where Poles make up over ten percent of the population as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages takes effect on March 1.

They can also submit official requests in Polish and local sign names can be bilingual.

Similar conditions are to be valid also for Slovaks who can communicate in their mother tongue with official institutions throughout the Czech Republic.

"The Charter relates to the Polish language in the Moravian and Silesian Region in the towns and villages with over ten percent of members of an ethnic minority. It also relates to Slovaks across the Czech Republic," Milan Pospisil, secretary of the government council for ethnic minorities, told CTK today.

However, the situation does not much change as the Czech Republic ratified the Charter after it had passed the relevant legislation such as the new educational law and civil service rules. They take into account the changes.

Bilingual sign names will be allowed in the towns and villages in the regions of Karvina and Frydek-Mistek.

"We have allotted to these purposes five million crowns from the budget for this year. The Moravian and Silesian Region will have it at its disposal for the town halls that will want bilingual sign names, interpretations and translations of official documents," Pospisil said.

Pospisil said that the bilingual sign names should be proposed by the local committee for ethnic minorities to the local town hall. If they are approved, the town hall may ask for the contribution, he added.

It is possible in theory that bilingual sign names occur on the Moravian-Slovak borderland, Pospisil said.

If Slovaks account for at least one-tenth of a town or villages, they will be entitled to their own sign names.

"However, we do not know of any such demands," Pospisil said.

In the places with a populous Polish or Slovak community, children are to have an opportunity of attending a Polish or Slovak kindergarten. The same goes for the elementary and secondary schools, he added.

Professional and higher education is also to be available in the ethnic language, Pospisil said.

Documents and evidence in the ethnic language are to be admissible in court, Pospisil said.

The local authorities are to communicate with the people in Polish or Slovak. Under the Charter, populous ethnic minorities are to have at least one radio station and one television channel.

Although a high percentage of Romanies live in some parts of the Czech Republic, the Romany language will not become the official or educational language as a mere 11,000 people claimed Romany ethnic origin in the 2001 population census.

According to estimates, there are some 250,000 Romanies in the Czech Republic.

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