Austrian Laws Determining the Rights of Ethnic Minorities

Austrian Laws Determining the Rights of Ethnic Minorities

Austrian laws determining the rights of ethnic minorities

1.Constitutional Protection of Minorities in Austria

The following national minority provisions are of constitutional standing:

  • Article 66 to 68 of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye of 10 September 1919, State Law Gazette No. 303/1920; according to Article 149 para. 1 of the B-VG, these provisions are of constitutional standing
  • Article 7 of the State Treaty for the Re-establishment of an Independent and Democratic Austria (State Treaty of Vienna), Fed. Law Gazette No. 152/1955; according to Article II para.3 of the Amendment to the B-VG, Fed. Law Gazette No. 59/1964, Article 7 paras. 2-4 are of constitutional standing
  • Article 8 of the Federal Constitutional Act (B-VG), Federal Law Gazette No. 1/1920
  • Article I of the Minorities School Act for Carinthia (Minderheiten-Schulgesetz für Kärnten), Fed. Law Gazette No. 101/1959
  • Section 1 of the Minorities School Act for Burgenland (Minderheiten-Schulgesetz für Burgenland), Fed. Law Gazette No. 641/1994

1.1The State Treaty of Saint Germain (1919)

"Article 66 (1)

All Austrian nationals shall be equal before the law and shall enjoy the same civil and political rights without distinction as to race, language or religion.


Differences of religion, creed or confession shall not prejudice any Austrian national in matters relating to the enjoyment of civil or political rights, as for instance admission to public employments, functions and honours, or the exercise of professions and industries.


No restriction shall be imposed on the free use by any Austrian national of any language in private intercourse, in commerce, in religion, in the press, or in publications of any kind, or at public meetings.


Notwithstanding any establishment by the Austrian Government of an official language, adequate facilities shall be given to non-German-speaking Austrian nationals for the use of their language, either orally or in writing, before the courts.

"Article 67

Austrian nationals who belong to racial, religious or linguistic minorities shall enjoy the same treatment and security in law and in fact as the other Austrian nationals. In particular they shall have an equal right to establish, manage and control at their own expense charitable, religious and social institutions, schools and other educational establishments, with the right to use their own language and to exercise their religion freely therein.

"Article 68 (1)

Austria will provide in the public educational system in towns and districts in which a considerable proportion of Austrian nationals of other than German speech are resident adequate facilities for ensuring that instructions in primary schools shall be given to the children of such Austrian nationals through the medium of their own language. This provision shall not prevent the Austrian Government from making the teaching of the German language obligatory in the said schools.


In towns and districts where there is a considerable proportion of Austrian nationals belonging to racial, religious or linguistic minorities, these minorities shall be assured an equitable share in the enjoyment and application of the sums which may be provided out of public funds under the State, municipal or other budgets for educational, religious or charitable purposes."

1.2Austrian State Treaty (1955)

Under article 7 of the Vienna State Treaty of 15 May 1955, the Slovene and Croat minorities were granted special rights. The five paragraphs of article 7 read as follows:

"1. Austrian nationals of the Slovene and Croat minorities in Carinthia, Burgenland and Styria shall enjoy the same rights as all other Austrian nationals, including the right to their own organizations, meetings and press in their own language.

"2. They are entitled to elementary instruction in the Slovene or Croat language and to a proportional number of secondary schools; for this purpose, school curricula shall be reviewed and a section of the Inspectorate of Education shall be established for Slovene and Croat schools.

"3. In the administrative and judicial districts of Carinthia, Burgenland and Styria with Slovene, Croat or mixed populations, the Slovene or Croat languages shall be accepted as official languages in addition to German. In such districts topographical terminology and inscriptions shall be in the Slovene or Croat language as well as in German.

"4. Austrian nationals of the Slovene and Croat minorities in Carinthia, Burgenland and Styria shall participate in the cultural, administrative and judicial systems in these territories on equal terms with other Austrian nationals.

"5. The activity of organizations whose aim is to deprive the Croat or Slovene population of their minority capacity or rights shall be prohibited."

In the Austrian Government's 1996 report to the UNO the Styrian Slovenes were not mentioned anymore. For 4 decades the Slovenes living in Styria had been withheld all their rights based on article 7 of the Austrian State Treaty. Eliminated politically in 1996, they are not recognised as an ethnic minority in Austria today.

1.3Article 8 of the Federal Constitutional Act

(1) German is the official language of he Republic without prejudice to he rights provided by Federal law for linguistic


(2) The Republic (the Federation, Laender and municipalities)is committed to its linguistic and cultural diversity which as evolved in he course of time and finds its expression in the autochthonous ethnic groups. The language and culture, continued existence and protection of these ethnic groups shall be respected, safeguarded and promoted.

1.4Article I of the Minorities School Act for Carinthia

"The right to use Slovenian as a language of instruction or to learn it as a compulsory language must be granted to every student [in the area defined pursuant to section 10 para. 1 of this Federal Act in the schools to be determined under section 10 para. 1 of this Federal Act,] provided that this is the wish of the legal representative. A student may only be compelled with the consent of his or her legal representative to use Slovenian as a language of instruction or to learn it as a compulsory subject."

1.5Section 1 of the Minorities School Act for Burgenland

(guarantees instruction in the minority language until the completion of secondary education and which makes bilingual instruction mandatory, particularly on the primary school level.)

"The right to use the Croat or Hungarian languages or to learn them as a compulsory subject shall be granted to Austrian nationals of the Croat and Hungarian minorities in such schools as are defined in section6, section10 and section12 para. 1 of this federal law.”

2Simple law provisions

Two examples of simple laws (provisions not classified as being of constitutional standing) and ordinances are listed below:

2.1The Ethnic Groups Act (1976)

The Federal Government determines those ethnic groups to which the Ethnic Groups Act (July 7th, 1976) applies. For each of these groups

  • an Ethnic Group Advisory Council must be established. Presently there are Ethnic Group Advisory Councils for the Slovenian, Croat, Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian and Roma minorities.
  • Advancement of these ethnic groups through financial subsidies and other measures of support
  • bilingual topographical inscriptions in specified areas
  • with some authorities the language of the ethnic group can be used as an official language

2.2The Burgenland state Kindergarten Act (LBGl.35/1995)

provides for the establishment of bilingual kindergartens. Croatian can be declared an "official kindergarten language" if the native Austrian parents and guardians of over 25% of the children formally request it. Parents must register their children.

The Kindergarten Acts of the other Austrian states do not provide any bilingual instruction.