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Presidents of Slovenia and Austria meet members of the German-speaking ethnic community in Slovenia in Kočevje

Kočevje, 1. 9. 2013 | press release

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, is hosting the Federal President of the Republic of Austria, Dr Heinz Fischer, on his two-day official visit to Slovenia. This is the second official meeting of the two presidents: President Pahor and Ms Tanja Pečar paid their first official visit to the Austria in February 2013. President Fischer was accompanied by his wife, Ms Margit Fischer.

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, is hosting the Federal President of the Republic of Austria, Dr Heinz Fischer, on his two-day official visit to Slovenia.
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

After a reception ceremony with military honours, the two presidents visited Kočevje, where they met with members of the German-speaking ethnic community in Slovenia. Representatives of associations of German-speakers described the history of their situation in Slovenia and stressed the importance of the visit by the two presidents, which is the first of its kind ever. The two presidents also listened to the concerns and wishes of the community. In connection with the expectations of the representatives of German-speakers in Slovenia regarding the recognition of their status as an official ethnic minority, President Pahor said that activities and projects to the benefit of this ethnic community are regulated by the Agreement on Cooperation in the Fields of Culture, Education and Science of 2001, which represents an appropriate framework and scope for meeting this ethnic community's wants and needs, and by partnership programmes periodically adopted on the basis of this agreement.

In this respect, President Pahor recalled that his work as the President of the National Assembly had focused on granting each individual an opportunity to develop his/her own identity, which had been made possible by the aforementioned agreement, and on the rights granted to ethnic communities in accordance with Article 61 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia. President Pahor added that today's visit to Kočevje was due to his belief that more could be achieved within the scope of Article 61 and the aforementioned agreement, asking: "Why should we knock on a door that is closed when the adjacent door can be opened wider?" At the end, President Pahor thanked the participants in the meeting for a constructive discussion and stressed that the representatives of the German-speaking ethnic community were always welcome to call on his office for assistance.

Presidents of Slovenia and Austria meet members of the German-speaking ethnic community in Slovenia in Kočevje
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Despite financial difficulties, the Ministry of Culture doubled its funding for the German-speaking ethnic community in 2012, while the draft National Programme for Culture 2014-2017 pays particular attention to constitutionally unrecognised communities, including the German-speaking ethnic community in Slovenia, and in particular the German-speaking settlers in Kočevje, as pointed out by the Slovenian delegation.

Before attending a performance at the Šešek Cultural Centre in Kočevje, Ms Fischer also visited a permanent exhibition entitled "Kočevje: The Lost Cultural Heritage". The Slovenian and Austrian presidents also signed the guestbooks of the Regional Museum and the Municipality of Kočevje.

The first day of the Austrian president's official visit to Slovenia closed with a gala dinner hosted by President Pahor and Ms Pečar.