Non-governmental organizations in Slovenia are increasingly targeted by the government's restrictive measures and hostile rhetoric. Leading the government, the radical right Slovenian Democratic Party and PM Janez Janša direct their hostility especially towards NGOs engaged in independent cultural production and defending human rights, media freedom and the environment. Legal and financial restrictions have been applied to them and the epidemic is used to justify such measures. The media, the judiciary and independent state bodies are also under attack.
The government has, for example, been blocking payments to film producers for a whole year, while the Ministry of Culture started changing the rules for the composition of commissions that decide on co-financing projects of non-governmental cultural organizations so that the Minister will have full control over the allocation of funds. Amid such developments, and in the circumstances of a dramatic second wave of the epidemic in the country, 18 non-government organizations were recently requested by the government (Ministry of Culture) to vacate their premises in the building at No. 6 Metelkova Street in Ljubljana, in which they have been operating since the mid-1990s.
The undersigned individuals and organizations support the Response to the request, quoted below, and call on the Ministry of Culture in Slovenia to keep the building at No. 6 Metelkova Street in use for the current tenants. We call on the Government of the Republic of Slovenia to stop attacking civil society and independent culture in Slovenia and to provide a free, safe and supportive environment for non-governmental organizations.
Response to the attack of the Ministry of Culture on non-governmental organizations at No. 6 Metelkova Street
On Monday 19 October 2020 the non-governmental organizations operating at No. 6 Metelkova Street in Ljubljana received a proposal for an amicable termination of the lease from the building manager of the Ministry of Culture and an order to vacate the building by 31 January 2021. If we fail to do so, the Ministry has threatened to enforce the eviction through the courts, at our expense. The reason given is that the ministry supposedly needs the premises for its own use and intends to renovate them, although the budget is not slated to provide funds for such renovation until 2023, and the Ministry has not offered tenants replacement premises, nor has it entered into any sort of dialogue with us. The termination of the leases came to our addresses unannounced and on the very day when the SARS-CoV-2 virus epidemic and curfew were declared. We strongly protest the actions of the Ministry of Culture and regard it as an attack on civil society and independent culture intended to prevent the functioning of a critical public. The current government and especially the largest government party, the SDS, have never hidden these intentions.
The organizations operating at No. 6 Metelkova derive from the heritage of the civil society movements that promoted the democratization and demilitarization of society in the 1980s, and thereby made a crucial contribution to the adoption of a democratic constitution after the country's independence. One of the key symbolic moments of these efforts took place in 1993, when cultural workers, artists and activists occupied the former command headquarters for all Yugoslav National Army barracks in Slovenia located on Metelkova Street in Ljubljana. Since then, it has been a public space where diversity, solidarity, dialogue and critical thinking are respected and encouraged. The current government in power is attempting to erase these values and this history, even though the Prime Minister once considered himself a peace activist. Instead of demilitarization, this government is forcing Slovenia to purchase a huge amount of weaponry, and instead of democratization, it is following the authoritarian example of Hungary and other Visegrad countries, where they have already dealt with non-governmental organizations in a way similar to what the Ministry of Culture is trying to do to us.
Today, No. 6 Metelkova Street is home to non-governmental organizations, collectives and individuals engaged in independent cultural and artistic production, and research and advocacy on behalf of minority and marginalized groups. These are internationally recognized actors who have created countless books, films, magazines, exhibitions, conferences, festivals, theatrical, puppet and dance performances, intermedia projects and research over nearly three decades of operation in these spaces. Part of this production was supported by the very same ministry which is now throwing us out onto the street. We would expect the Ministry of Culture to be aware of this history and to support the creativity and knowledge produced here. On the contrary: it has decided, in the midst of an epidemic, to take away our basic infrastructure and thus the foundation for our operations. It should be stressed that in the case of No. 6 Metelkova, this is the only building that the Ministry of Culture has dedicated to independent cultural, artistic and research organizations, and the organizations that have premises here are designated as operating in the public interest.
We hereby inform the Ministry of Culture and the government of the Republic of Slovenia that we have no intention of leaving No. 6 Metelkova and that we will resist with all possible means these attacks on civil society, independent culture, and democracy.”
List of signatories – organizations operating at No. 6 Metelkova Street:
- Association of Slovene Film Producers
- Association of Slovenian Foundations
- Center for Slovenian Literature
- City of Women – Association for the Promotion of Women in Culture
- Contemporary Dance Association Slovenia
- Dance Theatre Ljubljana
- En Knap Dance Group
- Exodos Ljubljana
- Forum Ljubljana
- Gallus J. Carniolus Institute
- Gallus Foundation
- Institute for Sustainable Development
- Legal-Informational Centre for NGOs
- Maska Institute
- NSK Information Centre (Neue Slowenische Kunst)
- Otok Institute / Isola Cinema
- Peace Institute
- Retro-avantgarde Society (Laibach)
- SCCA-Ljubljana, Center for Contemporary Arts
- SLOGA, Slovenian Global Action - platform of non-governmental organizations
- ŠKUC Association
- Vertigo Independent Film Production
- Vitkar Institute