In contemporary Europe minority acts which define the rights of national minorities have been introduced in the legislation of 21 states - mainly east of the Elbe. Among the most recently adopted regulations is the act on national and ethnic minorities and on regional language which after nearly eleven years of work was passed by the Polish Parliament on 6 January 2005. The act regulates first of all the rights of the minorities which had previously been regulated by the rules of other legal acts. These include: minority education, the right to notate first names and family names in accordance with the person's mother tongue, cultural activity and financing of minority activities. A completely new regulation defined the notion of national minority, ethnic minority and regional language. Another new element of the act was a restricted list of minorities. The greatest debates accompanied work on three issues: introduction of a minority's mother tongue as a subsidiary official language, the use of double topographic nomenclature and the creation of a separate office for the implementation of the policy on minorities.
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