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The speech of the Vice-president of the AACC on the opening ceremony of the 17th Cultural week in Gurk
May 15th 2009

Minority rights and minority protection are constituent parts of a democratic society.

The honorary speaker Gerhard Weis from Vienna stressed in his speech the meaning of minority rights in the parliamentary, social-political and national spheres. He supported the way of the started dialogue between the representatives of Carinthian Slovenes and representatives of the homeland organisations. He also mentioned the question of seeking the (historical) truth, formation of opinion ,distinguishing among truth, half-truth and lie and the responsibility of media employees in the society. He mentioned the activities of the Alps-Adriatic Centre in Klagenfurt, which is endeavouring for cross border cooperation among Slovenia, Austria and other South-eastern European countries. He evaluated the minority programmes of Austrian Radio Television (ORF) as necessary and exemplary.

“Dober večer” and “Hvala za povabilo” -of course I do not want to say more in this language, since regretfully I did not learn Slovenian. As the majority of this world s inhabitants I grew up with one language, I learned English and also other so called world languages at school (with some difficulties)-but it is completely different when somebody grows up with two languages: here appears an additional cosmos and one can lead two lives in two worlds.
Not only here in Carinthia but probably in all countries of our world are, where they exist, bilingually educated people always in the minority-which for sure contains one “majority”, some cultural riches, potential for life development, one valuable capital. And then we have for such phenomenon only the expression minority (what in semantics means less), this is unsatisfactory and even paradoxical. The Carinthian Slovenes should have the reason to be proud of their bilingual character-per my opinion, they have more than the majority has.
Numbers and number relations seemingly play existence forming role in our world. Although since the past all what is existing, is counted, measured and scaled, as only in this way it is possible to understand the world and to portray the life, but from the industrialisation a new science developed out of this counting and measuring, it is statistics. Statistics is not an evil now, if it is properly used, it can provide information about development, tendencies, it can give higher security for forecasts and it can help us to get to know different opinions when deciding. Let s just think of statistics at the matters of climate changes or endangered animals and plants. (to the mentioned -one marginal remark-it is very interesting how many worries and attention people all over the world pay to the endangered animals and plants and the question is why such worries and efforts are not paid to the people who are endangered in their own existence). However in industrial countries huge amounts are spent for the nutrition of domestic animals, in every case relatively more than is spent to prevent hunger in poor regions of our continent. Shall some animalism follow humanism ? This is my marginal remark
Back again to statistics: it is important how we approach it and which conclusions can we make: substantial methodical errors, false conclusions , however also purpose misinterpretations are regretfully very frequent. For instance ,the defining of the minority-and in this case I do not think of the establishing of national groups-minorities, but voting and election procedures in the country and the society what is essential for democracy. Every democratic election in the governmental or social presentation body is in the nature the establishing of the majority to the respective minority. So the majority gets the right and the power to fulfill its ideas, to chose its own way-of course only to the next election. It is the main point of voting.
In the practice the election winners are quite often convinced that with the winning of election it was decided about the truth, too -error is excluded, it remains afterwards to those who lost the election. The question “what is true-what is the truth” can not be decided on the basis of the democratic voting. Prudence is always necessary in the relation to political parties and society forces which take the truth for their own. Numerous times parties which “were always right” brought catastrophe to the whole world-too many times and with too much pleasure they made mistakes in the relation to masses-and always with fatal end. Functional democracies are aware of this destiny and possess protective mechanisms:”What if the majority was wrong, what if it is evident that the minority had a better forecast?” These protective mechanisms are codified in the parliamentary rights of the minorities and are supposed to protect unlimited power of the majorities and prevent any absolute right. The rights of the minorities and the protection of minorities are urgently necessary and are an element of the democracy- and this is valid not only for the political representative bodies but also for the whole society. The condition of the democracy is measured also how it treats its different minorities.
Out of the mentioned also the demand for specific conflicts and dialogue culture, the so called “democratic forms of mutual communication “ comes from. It is clear that in the election period there are many word fights and it can become quite tough. Quarrels are allowed and tolerable- however always with convincing arguments based on facts. Insinuations, slanders, cynical remarks which offend the rival and dirty political expression, mean the death of every democracy.
When preparing for this evening, I read the book “Kaernten neu denken” which was written by Josef Feldner and Marjan Sturm. Because of several reasons this book attracted my attention: first, in the book the dialogue is going on , which can not be more democratic. Both conflict partners formally donate each other nothing- they dispute with arguments accepted by the rival, to which it is possible to answer without giving up own opinion. This is a very positive sign and it gives hope that such dialogue is possible in the specific situation our country is in since many years. Hopefully such dialogue will continue and lead to positive results. I can imagine it is not easy for a discussion partner to lead dialogue at such conditions, that a lot of personal courage and patience is necessary – if only the listening to arguments and opinions of another the “hard liners” are able to interpret as indulgence what also happens from time to time. There is probably no better way to solve this long lasting conflict as to lead this dialogue further in the future.
On the basis of such conflict of arguments in this dialogue I personally obtained very new and partially surprising conclusions, insights which enable me to have more differentiated standpoint of the whole matter. To me- coming from Vienna – this conflict about site signs seemed since years as a well known “quarrel about the emperor s beard” -German Carinthian stubbornness against Slovenian Carinthian wilfullness. And all this because of some metal signs, which might be considered by a traveller wanting to know about his location. Now I found out that on one side it is the winning of self recognition of the Carinthian Slovenes in the public place, on the other side it is a “great dread “ of the German speaking Carinthians. (probably also Carinthian Slovenes are not without “great dreads” ) I have to admit I was on the Slovenian side from the very beginning -more by instinct , since minorities are weaker and their rights should be insured, please note -it does not cost us anything.
I neglected however the aspect of the conflict that bilingualism on site signs is a manifest of the own language. I understand it is essential to devote a special value to the own language and this language is an obligatory constitutional sign of one national minority. From counting to counting the number of population which declares itself for Carinthian Slovenes diminished since assimilation is progresing -without doubt. There is no remedy when the involved population decides and quits the capital of bilingualism voluntary and without pressure ,however it is an obligation to fight against all forms of assimilation ,which appear at assimilation pressures- and one example is if the language is is not being allowed in the public, as for instance on local site signs.
On the other side dread and even more dread. It would be easy to say “dread is always a bad counsellor “ -if the memory to historical facts which are years behind us, however still strong in our memories- was not present. There is a proverb that history is not being repeated and out of this nothing can be learned -this is valid evidently only for positive expressions, the survived evil is active long term and is a very good basis for dread and mistrust .
Also schools in Vienna taught us that Carinthia about ninety years ago fought for its border and that evidently very clear confession of Carinthian Slovenes for their home Carinthia, ensured the today s country border -it is a long time from then and many things happened afterwards. Only to mention is the European unification, the forming of EU, what presents the border questions in totally other light. I believe that the past dreads would not last for long. And there are already really numerous signs of normality. When visiting Jauntal frequently I noticed almost no tendencies, the people of both speaking groups had no problems one with another, they behaved as good and friendly neighbours and had no basic remarks among them. This is Carinthia, too.
It will still take some time before everything would be “settled” and the ruins from the past would be removed. In this process the truth is essential, the historical truth -if we want to be exact. In his essay “Helpless Europe” very renowned -not only from me- Carinthian writer Robert Musil wrote a significantly convenient text for the mentioned , which I would like to quote “The famous historical distance exists in the point that out of 100 facts 95 were lost , so we are freely able to dispose the remaining 5. Objectivity is in the point that we monitor the 5 facts as a fashion from 20 years back on as a live dialogue among people, who we do not hear, let s become afraid of grotesque human actions, which are probably a bit dried and try to explain them from all standpoints which are not our own, this is from historical ones.
Searching the truth is definetly a matter of collecting facts and proofs. This is indeed a very hard job. Once more -Robert Musil when writing the foreword for his essay: “ I am not only convinced that my words are wrong, I am also convinced what would be told against them . In spite of this it is necessary to discuss it; the truth is in such matters usually not in the middle, but all around, like with a bag, which changes its form after every new fact which is put inside and becomes more and more firm.” I like this picture very much. It is in the nature of a bag that there is always some space to add something or to take away something if it is not relevant or less important. Here we are meaning facts and proofs -not opinions, which we have and we are not obliged to justify them . Manes Sperber wrote the sentence.” One gram of facts is more valuable than one tonne of opinions” -it is a role, very important one. The opposite to this is intrigue and “only to have a standpoint” is very present in our society where quite some people are sunbathing in the light of reflectors with braggers. One does not know precisely, has only heard something and has now such and such standpoint....and nobody who thinks so must explain how he came to such conclusions and on which facts is based his opinion-so and so he would probably not even know. This is now the ground on which prejudices grow and develop, the other side of the “right of free opinion”, which of course does not include the right to promote nonsense and against sense but based personal conviction that everyone can have and present it.
If the truth and facts are important, then critical behaviour is necessary. To be “critical” is often in literature mistranslated or understood as “to be against”, however this has no connection with critics. In Greek language critical means “able to distinguish”. To distinguish between the lie and the truth, sense or nonsense. Important and not important-this counts and to do this is not as easy as it sounds. The lie is not presented as an opposition to the truth -often there is the partial truth, twisting, maybe even accentual movements ,which deform the truth. And the differentiation between sense and nonsense, important and less important is not easy, too -since too many pieces of information waste is daily distributed to the population, especially through electronic media.

Now the time has come that I finally dedicate myself to the media, my field. In 1959 I decided to become a journalist -it is 50 years back already. I was with ORF for 35 years on different positions and if I mention ORF today, I mean ORF I left 7 years ago- in quite good position- what is the today s situation, this is still a question. I hope for the best.
ORF (Austrian national radiotelevision ) is a result of the federalist structure of Austria. Austria is not only an association of nine federal countries but is becoming alive through these countries. It is a matter that homeland and trust need vicinity -”a room before home door”, there is the homeland. Austria is -and it is a valuable capital -culturally very differentiated. Take for instance the neighbour Carinthia and Styria : Styrians cook, sing, live differently from Carinthians, wear other clothes and if they speak their dialect, it is a bit difficult to understand them .
Radio – meant for all people -should distinguish the people in their specific variety and from the mentioned also the costly ORF complex federalist structure comes with nine country studios which produce radio and television programmes. This costs a lot, however, on such basis ORF has priority against other offerers which produce and emit only centrally. Because of country studios ORF has “its place in the household” and is “the noisy one”. ORF also has the task to unite the countries -from Bodensee to Neusiedlersee – and to co-form the Austrian conscience , it must be told -besides the Post, Railway and ORF in Austria there is not a lot which unites the Republic in the daily conscience of its inhabitants.
The cultural differentiation about which I have already spoken, exists not only territorially but includes also the national and language groups which live in these regions. It is self understandable that people have the right to be contacted in their own language and difference and ORF has the obligation of fulfilling it.
I accepted this obligation as the ORF superintendant -it was at the end of nineties and then I met Bernard Sadovnik who was fully engaged for the Slovenian minority rights. From then on we are also friendly connected, we developed several and carried out some projects (in my very good memory is the emission of Sepp Forcher about Jauntal and the traditions of the Carinthian Slovenes), later I was invited by my friend Bernard to cooperate in the Alps-Adriatic Centre (AACC) where several positive movements appeared , too. The AACC was established to be useful: useful for the country and for the national minority, too. It was and is quite a success and I am glad to participate a bit. In the AACC met Filip Warasch, too , and together we visit places in Carinthia. So I got more of my experiences.
To get back to ORF programmes for minorities . Of course they are very expensive , the comparative specification of costs and usefullness is not sinful when we are talking about federalism and affected people. If it was contrary then the studios in nine federal units should not exist in the same size , then Vorarlberg studio would have only a part of funds which Vienna gets that has many more spectators and listeners. So they are all equally big- and this is valid also for the minorities programmes, which are produced for Croatians in Burgenland and for Slovenes in Carinthia.
The play of numbers, the numbers of spectators and listeners are irrelevant , because no quota is meritorious but only the richness of cultural differences, languages and living forms , which are present in our country and which make us rich. I think the so called reform of the federalist country which is course since some years with the reform of federalism will not essentially change the structure since historic based facts stand against it.
And I can hardly imagine that the federal units would vanish and that the language and national groups would become even smaller as they already are and that they would become unimportant. This would be a non permissible and continuous purification which would never be apologised by our descendants.
One more sentence: I believe in the Europe of countries, the Europe of regions, the Europe of cultural differences.

Foto: M. Štukelj

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