Carinthian Slovene organisation opts for self-dissolution

The Council of Carinthian Slovenes’ executive committee voted yesterday (Tues) in favour of its dissolution, head Karel Smolle announced.The decision must be approved by the Council’s delegates at its 29 March meeting in order to become effective.Council deputy leader Rudi Vouk said the reason for the vote was the Slovene government’s decision to cut its subsidies for Carinthian Slovene organisations by 50 per cent, which would mean 70,000 fewer Euros a year for the Council.Vouk added that it was obvious that Carinthian Slovene organisations were no longer as important to the Slovene government as in the past.He also noted he might remain active on issues important to Carinthian Slovenes if they finally agreed to form one big group rather than continue to support three organisations.There would only be “increased competition for subsidies” as a result of the Slovene government’s decision if Carinthian Slovenes failed to unify themselves, he added.Carinthian Freedom Party (FPK) Governor Gerhard Dörfler said the Council’s dissolution would make decisions on minority policy easier. He added that the majority of minority representatives were “constructive” but said Smolle and Vouk had been “bad-mouthing” Carinthia in Vienna and Ljubljana.Marjan Sturm, the head of rival organisation the Central Association of Slovene Organisations in Carinthia (ZSO), called the news a “diversion.”The third Carinthian Slovene organisation is the Association of Carinthian Slovenes.Meanwhile, People’s Party (ÖVP) Justice Minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner said on Monday that she could understand why there had been criticism of Klagenfurt Provincial Court Klagenfurt for its rejection last December of demands for further proceedings against Dörfler.The court rejected Carinthian Slovenes’ demands for further proceedings on the issue of bilingual place-name signs.Dörfler then belonged to the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) but has since left it to join the Carinthian Freedom Party (FPK).Ethnic Slovenes had complained that Dörfler had been guilty of misuse of office after he “displaced place-name signs” in Bleiburg (Pliberk) and Ebersdorf (Drvesa) in Carinthia.Documents leaked to Vienna weekly magazine Falter revealed the governor had relocated place-name signs in his role as deputy governor in 2006 so they did not need to become bilingual.Bandion-Ortner called on Monday for a “political solution” of the place-name sign problem.Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann called for a joint solution of Carinthia’s bilingual place-name sign issue in January.The Slovene minority in the province has called for place-name signs in all towns with a substantial Slovene population – calls which face strong opposition in many areas of Carinthia.But Faymann’s spokesman said “a decree or a unilateral initiative” by the federal government would not solve the problem.FPK called for a solution based on former SPÖ Chancellor Bruno Kreisky’s 1977 proposal for bilingual place-names in towns with a minority population of more than 25 per cent.The issue of bilingual place-names in Carinthia has been ongoing for decades. Late Carinthian BZÖ Governor Jörg Haider outraged the Slovene minority by refusing to erect such signs for years – despite a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court that said they needed to be put up in towns where Slovenes comprised ten or more per cent of residents.