PRIMIS - The protection of linguistic minorities in Slovenia


The rights of the Minority National Communities in Slovenia

The Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia establishes that the members of the indigenous Italian and Hungarian National Communities, in order to preserve their national identity, enjoy the following rights:

  1. the right to education, education and training in Italian language;

  2. the right to use the Italian / Hungarian language publicly and to visual bilingualism in the territory where the members of the Italian National Community, respectively Hungarian, live;

  3. the right to freely use their national symbols in recognized nationally mixed territories;

  4. the right to set up organizations, develop activities in the economic, research, information and publishing fields;

  5. the right to establish relationships with the Mother Nation;

  6. the right to establish on its own territory of historical settlement Self-managed Communities that can carry out certain tasks of state competence;

  7. the right to have their own political representatives at local (municipal councils) and national level (in the National Assembly, i.e. the Slovenian Parliament);

  8. These rights are guaranteed regardless of the number of members of the Italian National Community, respectively Hungarian.

The Italian National Community: the national and international legal framework

The legal foundations of the rights recognized to the Italian National Community (hereinafter: CNI) in Slovenia and Croatia lie, as well as in the European mechanisms for the protection of minorities, in the principle of the maintenance of rights already acquired and in some national, bilateral, multilateral, international and fundamental documents.

The bilateral/multilateral legal framework is as follows:

  1. The "Special Statute of the London Memorandum" of 5th October 1954;

  2. The "Treaty of Osimo", of 10th November 1975;

  3. The "Memorandum of Understanding between Croatia, Italy and Slovenia on the protection of the Italian minority in Croatia and Slovenia" of 15th January 1992 (signed by Italy and Croatia, while Slovenia, at the hands of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, had assured that he would respect and apply it as if he signed it);

  4. The "Treaty between the Italian Republic and the Republic of Croatia concerning minority rights" of 5th November 1996.

The Republic of Slovenia recognizes two indigenous national communities, the Italian and the Hungarian ones and also regulates some specific rights for the Roma community.

The Slovenian national legal framework for minority rights is made up of the following main regulations:

  1. The "Resolution of the Parliament of the Republic of Slovenia" of 13th December 1990 relating to the unity of the CNI,

  2. The 1991 "Constitutional Charter on the autonomy and independence of the Republic of Slovenia",

  3. The "Constitutional Law implementing the fundamental Constitutional Charter on the autonomy and independence of the Republic of Slovenia" of 1991,

  4. The "Declaration on independence" of the Republic of Slovenia, 1991,

  5. The "Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia",

  6. The "Law on Self-managed Communities of Nationality" in the Republic of Slovenia, 1994,

  7. The "Law on the particular rights of the Italian and Hungarian National Communities in the field of education" of 2001-2018,

  8. Other laws (55) which define the rights of the Italian and Hungarian National Communities.

The extension of the rights of the Italian National Community

The territorial extension of the CNI rights in Slovenia remains anchored to the territory identified by the special Statute annexed to the London Memorandum of 1954 and is limited to a narrow coastal strip that extends for a few kilometres inland, where these rights are no longer recognized. Well over 10% of the CNI members live outside the so-called nationally mixed territory.

For Slovenia, these are the nationally mixed territories of the Municipalities of Ancarano/Ankaran (completely bilingual municipality), Isola/Izola and Pirano/Piran and of the Municipality of Capodistria/Koper.

As far as Slovenia is concerned, there is a clear gap between the laws and regulations on the rights recognized to the CNI and their effective application. The lack of knowledge of the history and plural cultural, ethnic and linguistic reality of Istria and the impoverishment of the knowledge of Italian by the majority population, the poor application of rights in the linguistic field, the insufficient impact of the CNI in the management of the territory at the local level, the inadequacy of legislative and administrative tools and regulations aimed at preserving and promoting the historical, cultural, ethnic and linguistic identity of the territory where the CNI is located, the almost total absence of information on the CNI from the majority media at the local and national level, they place the CNI in a complex situation that would require adequate organic and synergistic action between the legislative, executive and administrative bodies, both at the national level and at the level of local self-government, of the Republic of Slovenia, aimed to ensure the effective areas of application of the rights granted to it.

Another important aspect, characterizing the CNI, is represented by the dialectal idioms. The peculiarity of the Italian spoken in the informal daily sphere by the CNI members consists of two idioms, the Istroveneto (with its many local varieties) and the Istroromanzo (in its six varieties: Rovignese, Dignanese, Sissanese, Vallese, Gallesanese and Fasanese).

The Italian Union has obtained recognition of Istroveneto as an intangible cultural heritage of Slovenia which will therefore be registered in the appropriate national register.

The representative institutions of the Italian National Community

The CNI, in implementation of the rights recognized to it, has established numerous institutions, organizations and associations which, all together, contribute to keeping alive and promoting the Italian identity, language and culture on its territory of historical settlement in Slovenia (and in Croatia).

The Italian Union is the unitary, autonomous, democratic and pluralistic representative organization of the Italians of the Republics of Croatia and Slovenia, expressing the overall articulation of political, economic, cultural and social needs. The Italian Union is a subject of private law. The Italian Union is the unitary institutional interlocutor of the CNI with regard to Italy, Croatia and Slovenia. The Italian Union contributes to maintain the unity of representation, institutional, political, identity, cultural, linguistic and social of the CNI.

At local level, to cultivate and develop their traditions, customs and traditions, to maintain and promote the Italian language, culture and identity, the members of the CNI make up the Communities of Italians: 44 in Croatia and 7 in Slovenia. The Communities of Italians join the Italian Union. The Communities of Italians are subjects of private law

In order to promote and protect the position of the CNI in the society, to realize the particular rights enshrined in the Slovenian Constitution, to implement their needs and interests and to participate in an organized way in public life and in the management of local affairs, the members of the CNI constitute the Self-managed Communities of Italian Nationality.

According to the Slovenian Constitution and the Law on Self-managed Communities of Nationality, on their historical settlement territory the CNI members constitute the Self-managed Communities of Italian Nationality (CAN), with the aim of realizing the particular rights enshrined in the Constitution, implementing their needs and interests and participate in organized matters in public matters. CANs are subject to public law. They are constituted at municipal level (Ancarano, Capodistria, Isola, Pirano) as interlocutors of Municipalities and at coastal level (Coastal Self-managed Community of Italian Nationality) as interlocutor of the State.

As regards the political aspect, the CNI is guaranteed representation in the legislative bodies at national (parliamentary) and local (regional and municipal) levels, both in Slovenia and in Croatia.

CNI has the right to elect a member of the Slovenian Parliament (National Assembly) who has a specific seat.

In Slovenia, to the CNI is reserved 10% of the seats in the municipal councils of the cities of historical residence (Ancarano, Capodistria, Isola, Pirano).

In municipalities in Slovenia and Croatia in nationally mixed territories, i.e. where the presence of the CNI is recognized, a Deputy Mayor must be Italian, if the Mayor is not.

The educational-instructive system of the Italian National Community

Educational institutions are the vital roots of the CNI, as they promote the maintenance and transmission of the Italian language, culture and identity.

The Italian school system included in the Slovenian public system, in accordance with the legal-constitutional system, includes 3 pre-school institutions, 3 elementary schools, i.e. compulsory school and 3 secondary schools.

The teaching language is Italian. The educational programs are completely similar to those of the majority schools, with the addition of Italian language and literature studied as a mother tongue, as well as some significant additions to the programs of geography, history, history of art and music related to the CNI and Italy in general.

At the university level, the Department of Italian Studies operates within the Coastal University (Primorska) of Koper/Capodistria at the Faculty of Humanities.

The cultural, research and information institutions of the Italian National Community

The Italian Union is the main cultural institution of the CNI, flanked by the qualified and numerous artistic (amateur) activities of the Communities of Italians, with which it actively collaborates in the organization and promotion of the articulated activity and of the many cultural initiatives.

The activity of the Italian Union ranges in multiple sectors of activity: cultural, scholastic, educational-instructive, educational, editorial, informative, sports, theatrical, social, juridical (for the respect and affirmation of the rights of the CNI), partner - economic, scientific, university, research, etc., as well as in the political one.

CNI has a long tradition of Italian newspapers in Slovenia and Croatia.

The Italian Radio and TV Programs Koper, in Slovenia, operate within the RTV of Slovenia and broadcast 24 hours a day of radio programs in Italian and over 9 hours of television programs a day in Italian. Radio Capodistria began broadcasting in 1949, while TV Capodistria in 1971.

The EDIT publishing house, based in Rijeka/Fiume (Croatia), was founded by the Italian Union which also owns the property rights. Publishes the newspaper "La Voce del Popolo" (comes out from 1944 and is one of the 6 Italian newspapers that are published outside the borders of Italy), the fortnightly "Panorama", the children's monthly "Arcobaleno", the cultural magazine "La Battana". Publishes school textbooks for primary, middle and middle-high schools of the Italian schools of Croatia, other texts, books and publications mainly related to the CNI.

All these newspapers, with their information and editorial activity, contribute fundamentally to the preservation and diffusion of the Italian language and fulfil an important cultural role.

The Italian Centre of Promotion, Culture, Training and Development "Carlo Combi" operates in Koper/Capodistria, set up by CAN Costiera, which intends to promote the visibility, role and function of the CNI as the driving force of the cultural and social development of the territory in which it it is present, developing interethnic coexistence, multiculturalism and plurilingualism.