Language Laws and Language Rights in Croatia

Karoly Labadi

 

The Hungarian minority in Croatia is one of the smallest Hungarian national minorities and the Yugoslavian civil war took a particularly heavy toll on their number (in 2001 a total of 12 651 claimed to be mother tongue speakers of Hungarian).

The constitution of the multi-nationality Croatia treats the following as minorities: Hungarians, Serbs, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians and Rusin. Beyond the guarantee of universal human rights this means that everybody is free to use their mother tongue and its written form; they also have the right to cultural autonomy.  In those regions where the minority (on the whole state level) actually forms a majority they can use their mother tongue in official life. Such is the case, for example in Dravaszog and Korogy, where the Hungarian language is equal in status to Croatian. De jure  the Croatian constitution, the laws and the district level orders – which are in harmony with the Language Charter and other international recommendations on the protection of minorities – guarantee wide-ranging collective rights for the use of the languages of minorities. These extend to the above-mentioned  relative majority functions which are connected to the rights about language use in public administration. From the kindergarten to secondary school, education in the mother tongue is guaranteed. However, there are problems with religious practice in that Hungarian language religious life is more and more squeezed into the background. The reasons for this are not connected with rights but rather with practice especially the lack of  mother tongue ministers.