U.S. English Foundation Research

Language Research

5. Costs: What does it cost in terms of money, time and government resources to police the country’s language restrictions?
Updated (June 2005)


At the beginning of May, during a folk festival, the Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and the Carinthian Governor, Jörg Haider, officially unveiled a bilingual sign in the town of Windisch Bleiberg/Slovenji Plajberg.

In his speech Mr. Schüssel reminded that it would have been impossible to stage a similar official unveiling a few years ago.

However, unveiling of a bilingual sign in the town of Schwabegg/Zvabek was cancelled due to the threats of protests. Some activists campaigning against bilingual signs argued that the newly emerging officially bilingual area is becoming a “marked territory” for future attempts of the Slovenian state to revise the boundary line.

At the Second Consensus Conference majority and minority representatives agreed upon the additional nineteen bilingual place names that would fulfill the final pieces of the 1973 Minority Protection Act. However, this Act has been recently declared unconstitutional by the Austrian High Court, which ruled that the 25 percent threshold, on which the display of bilingual topographic names currently depends, breached the 1955 state treaty between Austria and the Allied powers.

Since then three conferences have taken place to reformulate the Act; however, no consensus has been reached so far. While some suggest lowering the threshold to 10, 15 or 20 percent, others believe that a certain defined territory should be made officially bilingual, regardless of the percentage of Slovene speakers. There are also disagreements on which census results to use to determine the percentage of Slovenians.

Although the date of the next Consensus Conference has not been set yet the Chancellor hopes that a final compromise will be reached before October 26, when Austria celebrates its National Day and 50 years of independence.

Meanwhile a Slovene representative in Southern Styria1 (Steiermark/Stajerska) proposed to put up bilingual signs on both sides of the Austrian-Slovenian border. The area around the Mur/Mura River, which now forms part of the boundary, was historically bilingual. A decade of assimilation caused that there is no major concentration of Slovene speakers left in Austrian Syria (Steiermark), while most German speakers of Slovenian Styria (Stajerska) were expelled or have assimilated.

Source: Eurolang News, Vienna, May 19, 2005, by Peter Josika, http://www.eurolang.net/news.asp?id=5026

the region neighboring Carinthia
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Updated (July 2005)


Some of official bilingual signs newly erected in Ludmannsdorf/Bilčovs (Southern Carinthia) have been either damaged or stolen within a few weeks.

The same incidents occurred also in the settlements of Bach/Potok, Edling/Kajzeze, Moschenitzen/Moscenica, Großkleinberg/Mala Gora and Pugrad/Pograd, all belonging to the municipality of Ludmannsdorf/Bilčovs.

After these new signs had been put up, increased security measures were taken to protect them; however, the police were not able to keep an eye on all topographic signs 24 hours a day.

A first attempt to put up bilingual signs across Southern Carinthia in 1972, led to the infamous attack (Ortstafelsturm) when most of these were removed overnight by an angry mob. A bilingual sign at the entry to the University of Klagenfurt/Celovec has been also removed repeatedly by radical opponents of bilingualism.

In 1977, the Law on Bilingual Topography was enacted. Although never fully implemented, it was declared unconstitutional by the Austrian High Court in 2001.

Efforts of the Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel, to reach a consensus between the minority and the majority in the affected areas have so far shown little progress.

For the time being it has not yet been decided when the destroyed and missing signs will be replaced and how they will be protected.

Source: Eurolang News, Biel/Bienne, July 6, 2005, by Peter Josika, http://www.eurolang.net/, (article from the Kurier (in German), http://www.kurier.at/oesterreich/1038601.php