International support wanted!

Dear friends, partners, everyone,

in Slovenia we were extremely lucky this year in getting two viruses at the same time: Corona virus and right wing government that is determined to erase NGOs.

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, among them ours, were recently requested by the government (Ministry of Culture) to vacate our premises in the building at No. 6 Metelkova Street in Ljubljana, in which we have been operating since the mid-1990s.

We have prepared a Response to the request, quoted below, and would be grateful if your organization would express support by signing a petition requesting that the building at No. 6 Metelkova Street remains in the use of current tenants and that the government should provide free, safe and supportive environment for civil society and independent culture.

Please sign the petition HERE.

“Response to the attack of the Ministry of Culture on non-governmental organizations at No. 6
Metelkova Street
Ljubljana, 20. 10. 2020

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 the 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 with 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 in Slovenia 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 / Strip Core, Stripburger, Lighting Guerrilla
Gallus J. Carniolus Institute
Gallus Foundation
Institute for Sustainable Development
Legal-Informational Centre for NGOs
NSK Information Centre
Otok Institute / Isola Cinema
Peace Institute
Retro-avantgarde Society (Laibach)
SCCA-Ljubljana, Center for Contemporary Arts
SLOGA, Slovenian Global Action – platform of nongovernmental organizations
ŠKUC Association
Vitkar Institute