Bilungal Inscriptions in Slovenia -an exemplary model for Europe?

Slovenia Bilingual Inscriptions Language Rights

The directive relating to the official languages granted for Hungarian and Italian minorities, in accordance with the article 11 of the Slovenian Constitution (URS) in mixed regions where Hungarian and Italian population live, is that both langauges are offical state languages. The law about the naming of towns, streets and building also says that in these areas it is required that besides the Slovenian name of the given example the Italian or Hungarian equivalent (according to area) has to be used. The law about the bilingual visibility, or bilingual topography also says that in the ethnical and languageswise mixed areas, not only the public sphere has to be bilingual but also the names of companies, associations, etc. have to be used with the same font, same size, here with slovenian should appear above and the give minority language beneath. The bilingaul topography also affects the cartohraphy of Slovenia as the local names of places need to be written in both languages


Legal Framework on bilingual topography in Slovenia

Art. 11 and Art. 64 URS form the normative basis for the bilingual topography in Slovenia.
Art. 11 URS contains the provision on the official language regulation and states that in those municipal areas in which the Italian or Hungarian ethnic group lives, the official language is also Italian or Hungarian.
Art. 64 URS contains a catalogue of special rights and refers to the "regions in which these two ethnic groups live (...)", but the Constitution does not specifically define the territory of the regions of the two ethnic groups.
The territorial scope of the nationally mixed regions is defined by the Law on the Establishment of Municipalities and the Regulautions of Municipal Areas (ZUODNO). Art. 5 ZUODNO stipulates that the nationally mixed areas are specified in more detail in the statutes of the municipalities of Lendava, Hodoš-Šalovci, Moravske Toplice, Koper, Izola and Piran.
The bilingual topography in the nationally mixed area, but also in the area of cartography, is precisely regulated in different laws and ordinances. The Law on the Naming and Registration of Villages, Roads and Buildings states that the names of each municipality located in national mixed areas must be specified in the Italian and Hungarian languages. The respective local self-governing community of the ethnic groups must be involved in determining the name in the language of the ethnic group. The law stipulates that the self-governing community must give its consent to the naming of the ethnic group through the municipal councils. In addition, street names in nationally mixed areas must be signposted in both languages. House number plates must also bear the name of the town or street in both languages. In both cases, both inscriptions must be of the same size and the Slovenian inscription must be placed above the Italian inscription.

The statutes of the municipalities in the nationally mixed area specify very extensively the implementation of the bilingual topography. The provisions go far beyond the setting up of bilingual town and street signs. The municipal statutes stipulate that all municipal authorities, state institutions and public enterprises and institutions in the nationally mixed territory of the municipality must use bilingual inscriptions, seals, stamps, printed matter and forms. In addition, private individuals, companies, associations, cooperatives and other institutions must also affix bilingual signs. The statutes of the individual municipalities are almost identical with regard to the regulations of bilingualism in their area. While the municipalities where the Hungarian ethnic group is based have determined provisions on bilingual topography in their statutes, the municipalities on the coast, where the Italian ethnic group is based, have issued special ordinances to this effect.

The statute of the municipality of Hodoš/ Hodos, which is located in the Hungarian-populated north-east of Slovenia, defines the territorial area of the municipality in Article 1 of its statute. Accordingly, the territory of the municipality of Hodoš extends to the settlements of Hodoš and Krplivnik/Kapornak, both of which are located in the nationally mixed area. In Article 65, the municipality guarantees "equality and the exercise of the special right of the Hungarian national ethnic group" and defines Slovenian and Hungarian as equivalent official languages. The area of bilingual topography is governed by Art. 66 and Art. 67 of the municipal statute:

Art. 66: In the nationally mixed territory, municipal authorities, state institutions and public enterprises and institutions shall use bilingual inscriptions, seals, stamps, printed matter and other forms in the nationally mixed territory in accordance with the law.

Art. 67: In the national mixed area, signs with the inscriptions of places, streets, publications, information and warnings as well as other public inscriptions are bilingual. In the nationally mixed area, all municipal and state institutions, enterprises, economic organisations, private individuals, public offices, associations and other organisations and communities must have bilingual inscriptions. Bilingual inscriptions must have the same appearance in both languages.

The coastal municipality of Izola/Isola, which is home to the Italian ethnic group, comprises the town of Izola and the towns of Baredi, Cetore, Dobrava/Dobrova presso Isola, Jagodje/Valleggia, Korte, Malija, Šared and No┼żed. The statute of the commune defines the nationally mixed area as follows:

In the nationally mixed area (bilingual area), which includes the city of Izola and the villages of Dobrava and Jagodje, the Slovene and Italian languages are of equal value in public and social life.

Special rights are also granted to those Italian-speaking municipal citizens who do not live in the bilingual area. According to Article 4 of the municipal statute, members of the Italian ethnic group who live outside the bilingual territory have the same rights as members of the Italian ethnic group who live in the bilingual territory of the municipality when dealing with municipal and state authorities and other public institutions located in the bilingual territory of the municipality.

The bilingual topography regulates the municipality of Izola in the Ordinance on the Implementation of Bilingualism in the National Mixed Territory of the Municipality of Izola. Article 6(4) of the Ordinance contains a precise list of the topographical inscriptions to be used in both languages. According to the provision
(...) all inscriptions on signposts, additional signs, directional signs, official road signs, railway stations and public transport stops (bus, taxi, train, boat and others) and on urban passenger transport vehicles, with the exception of the names of localities and other geographical terms not located in the mixed national region, in both languages.

In order to fully implement strict bilingualism, the Regulation on the spelling of geographical names on national maps in nationally mixed areas in the Republic of Slovenia was adopted in 2014. The ordinance stipulates that all geographical names of municipalities, localities and roads on state maps of Slovenia's nationally mixed territories that are maintained for the territory of the Republic of Slovenia in accordance with the provisions of the national topographic system must be written in Slovenian and Italian or Hungarian. Where a government authority is responsible for standardisation, "other" geographical designations, such as important buildings or waters, must also be printed in both languages. The ordinance also contains precise rules for the spelling of names. For example, all names must be written in the same font, size and colour, with the Slovenian name preceded by the Italian name and separated only by a dash without spaces.


Professor Miran Komac from the Inštitut za narodnostna vprašanja points out that the Slovenian minority laws are within the frames of the international conventions and internationally acknowledged as examples by the academic circles, besides being considered to be exemplary cases of best practices. The success of the laws are shown also by that, that both the Italian and Hungarian circles issued positive critics about the laws, hoping that these measure will be taken into practice with the same effort. 

Source: Diploma thesis / Roman Roblek