WRITTEN QUESTION No. 2343/97 by Hedy d'ANCONA to the Commission. Anti-Semitism in a Slovakian school textbook

Official Journal C 076 , 11/03/1998 P. 0098

WRITTEN QUESTION E-2343/97 by Hedy d'Ancona (PSE) to the Commission (10 July 1997)

Subject: Anti-Semitism in a Slovakian school textbook

1. Is the Commission aware of the existence of a textbook on Slovakian history for Slovakian primary schools which glosses over the mass deportation of Jews to the extermination camps?

2. Can the Commission confirm that this textbook, written by Milan Durica, a Catholic priest, has been published with money from the European Union?

3. If so, can the Commission indicate the programme under which these funds were provided? Can it also indicate how it monitors the use of such funds?

4. Does the Commission see any prospect of withdrawing the funding, and can it ensure that the book is taken out of circulation?

5. Does the Commission share the view that the message of this controversial textbook runs counter to the objectives of the European Year Against Racism?

6. What action is the Commission intending to take to ensure that in future aid to third countries is not misused for purposes which are at variance with the criteria for accession to the European Union in respect of democracy and civil rights?

Answer given by Mr Van den Broek on behalf of the Commission (4 September 1997)

Under the Phare 'Renewal of education programme' for Slovakia, funding was provided for curriculum development. The Slovak ministry of education requested funding for the printing of a schoolbook on Slovak history, described as a chronological description of historical events to be used as a supplementary teaching aid. The request letter contained three recommendations of the book by historians teaching in Canada, Germany and Slovakia, all of Slovak origin. The Commission relied on the recommendations and approved funding (ECU 80,000) for the printing of the book.

When the Commission was made aware that the book contained offensive material of an antisemitic nature which misrepresented Slovakia's wartime role, it took immediate action. The responsible memeber of the Commission in a meeting with the Slovak Foreign Minister on 25 June 1991 requested urgently the withdrawal of the books from Slovak schools. Replying to this request the Slovak Prime Minister announced on 27 June 1997 in Amsterdam that the book would be withdrawn. On 1 July 1997 the Slovak ministry of education published a statement, saying that the book 'will not be used in the educational process'. On 2 July 1997, the Foreign Minister informed the Commission in a letter about this decision of the Ministry of education after the issue had been raised at a regular government meeting. The Commission has focused its efforts on having the book withdrawn rather than having the funds reimbursed.

The Commission agrees that the contents of this book run counter to the objectives and principles embodied in the 'year against racism'. The Commission stresses the importance of compliance with the democracy criterion set out at the Copenhagen Council in all its contacts and co-operation initiatives with applicant countries. Every effort is being made to support Slovakia in its objective to comply fully with this criterion.