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Minister Of Culture Asta Vrečko Wants To Prohibit Associations That Are Not To Her Liking

The Association for the Promotion of Traditional Values (Društvo za promocijo tradicionalnih vrednot) was granted the status of a non-governmental organisation of public interest under the mandate of former Minister of Culture Vasko Simoniti. At that time, the cultural activists not only verbally but even physically insulted the Ministry, since this status was, of course, reserved beforehand exclusively for associations, institutions and “research institutes” of the left to far-left political provenance. They took advantage of the fact that the then-President (but not the founder) of the association, Urban Purgar, had written some foolish words online, which were then attributed to the association itself. Even the building of the Ministry was attacked – extremists (one of them was reportedly the left-wing activist Vuk Ćošić) spray-painted swastikas on the windows of the Ministry, claiming that the association was promoting “neo-Nazism”. Of course, none of that is true. Nevertheless, to this day, the association has remained the target of institutional and street attacks from the left, even though its then-Pesident, Purger, has since resigned. Now the Ministry of Culture, under the leadership of Asta Vrečko, wants to simply ban or delete the association. Are these the outlines of the erasure of a culture disliked by the authorities, similar to the early Nazi era?

According to media reports, the Ministry of Culture will submit a request to the Administrative Court and the State Prosecutor’s Office to remove the Association for the Promotion of Traditional Values from the register. The decision to do so was taken because of the strengthening of expressions of intolerance and incitement against dissenting voices, Minister of Culture Asta Vrečko said in a recent statement.

The ministry claims that the association in question is linked to the group that has named itself the Yellow Vests (Rumeni jopiči), although the only “link” to the Yellow Vests is Purger, who resigned from the position of President of the association two years ago and is no longer its member. At that time, the deletion of the association from the register of public interest associations was requested by the notorious left-wing initiative the Legal Network for the Protection of Democracy (Pravna mreža za varstvo demokracije), which, at the time (like the Ministry now), filed a motion with the Prosecutor’s Office to initiate the deletion procedure for the association, mainly on the grounds that the President had “wrong interests”.

The self-proclaimed Cultural Workers’ Association (Aktiv kulturnikov) also campaigned for the withdrawal of the status of the Association for the Promotion of Traditional Values, as they believed that the association was not acting in the public interest. In a protest action, the activists also put up posters on the windows of the Ministry of Culture with statements posted on social media by the President of the association, Urban Purgar. The most controversial was the “praise” of Hitler – although Purgar repeatedly stressed that the statement was taken out of context, and he also posted a petition entitled “Proposal for the adoption of a law on the prohibition of the public use of totalitarian symbols.” His provocative statements were intended to demonstrate the double standards involved in condemning totalitarianism.

At the time, the then-Minister of Culture, Vasko Simoniti, responded to a written question from a Member of the European Parliament by saying that, under the Non-Governmental Organisations Act, an NGO may apply for status with the competent ministry in accordance with the activities it carries out. The Ministry then establishes the facts in the administrative procedure, which is necessary before issuing a decision. If the relevant ministry finds that the NGO fulfils all the requirements laid down by law, the said ministry then issues a decision granting the status. The application for NGO status of this association, which was submitted in March 2021, was first examined by the Expert Committee for Literature, and a favourable opinion was given. The opinion of the Expert Committee was then followed by the Ministry of Culture. Therefore, the Legal Network’s complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office was ultimately dismissed as unfounded, as they were unable to prove a link between the association and neo-Nazism.

The Association has nothing to do with the statements of an individual and nothing to do with Nazism

The association distanced itself from Purger’s statements (although they were taken out of context) and stated that it had nothing to do with the individual’s statements and that the Association for the Promotion of Traditional Values has nothing to do with Nazism. The Non-Governmental Organisations Act, which was adopted under the government of Marjan Šarec, is clear on the granting and withdrawal of the status of an NGO – and under the current legislation, an association that fulfils all the conditions cannot be deprived of its status – and the Association for the Promotion of Traditional Values fulfilled all the conditions. If Minister Simoniti had arbitrarily intervened in the procedure at that time, he would have been in breach of the law.

This was also experienced first-hand by the Minister of Culture, Asta Vrečko, who, despite the cajoling of the left-wing “street” and culturalists, failed to revoke the status of the association during her first year in office. We have it on good authority that the Minister pressured the staff there to “think of” a good enough reason to withdraw the association’s status, even though the case would then be dropped when the association would have appealed to the Administrative Court. The Ministry officials refused to do so, explaining to the Minister that they dared not sign such decisions because they would be there long after the Minister was once again just a “cultural worker in the public interest,” financed by the state, just like she had been before she took office.

The Minister was on the verge of despair because it was her “street” from Metelkova that accused Simoniti’s Ministry of promoting neo-Nazism because it had not withdrawn the status of a public interest society from the association – and now she herself was not able to withdraw the status from the association, because she found that there were no mistakes in the procedure and that the association was not promoting neo-Nazism, as the Minister’s street supporters had claimed. This was followed by pressure from “her” media.

Not long ago, the weekly Mladina asked about the public interest status of the association and about the media register for the National Press Agency (Nacionalna tiskovna agencija – NTA). The Ministry of Culture explained to the media that there was no legal basis for the withdrawal or deletion of either one. “The accusation that this web portal was allegedly operated by neo-Nazis and used, among other things, to disseminate ideas from Hitler’s Mein Kampf is unfortunately not yet sufficient to justify its deletion from the media register,” the NTA was quoted as saying.

The pressure was immense

It is obvious that the Minister wants to wash her hands of this. She is aware of the uncomfortable situation in which she has been unwittingly pushed by her own activists. The previous Ministry was declared a supporter of neo-Nazism by the Left party (Levica), together with its supporters from Metelkova (and even by the national media outlet RTV Slovenia’s journalist Špela Kožar, who was subsequently sued by the Ministry through its lawyer), and now she has become a supporter of “neo-Nazism” herself, following this logic. Of course, it is hard to escape the irony that it was the Minister’s left-wing supporters who, under Simoniti’s mandate, set up bloody tables with the names of staff members (including full-time employees) in front of the Ministry, drew swastikas and put up slips of paper with the names of staff members with their heads cut off – in other words, acted in the style of real fascism. Of course, the current Minister does not care much about this. She understands that she has to feed the hungry dogs on the street and in the media who are out for blood.

But since the Ministry officials have made it sufficiently clear that they are not prepared to break the law on her behalf, the Minister has apparently decided that the only possible way out is to wash her hands of the situation and push the responsibility for it into the hands of the Administrative Court and the Prosecutor’s Office (as we have written, this court has already rejected a similar denunciation by the Legal Network once before). We have learned from our sources that the Minister knows very well that she will not be successful with her request, as officials have made it clear to her, but she will use the manoeuvre as an excuse for her own media wolves, the Mladina-type ones, so they can all make excuses together, saying, “At least we tried.”

The start of the “purges”?

On the other hand, the Slovenian judiciary, which some legal experts say has been “privatised” by left-wing politics, has become extremely unpredictable. Let us just remind you of the unbelievable ruling of the Constitutional Court that lifted the suspension of the government’s amendment to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act, which stunned even left-wing legal experts. Perhaps the Administrative Court, with its “creative” interpretation, will want to help out the Ministry of Culture, just as the Constitutional Court helped out the government and the leftists of the RTV Slovenia journalistic activists. If this were to happen, we would be on the verge of a Slovenian socialist analogy to the Nazi “synchronisation of culture”. Namely, the Nazis wanted to erase all traces of Jewish influence on German art from German culture with the purge of the early 1930s. And if the Ministry of Culture, with the help of the judiciary, succeeds in this manoeuvre, then we really will be on the threshold of our own “synchronisation” of culture. In light of this, it is also worth noting that the judges recently received a huge pay rise.

Andrej Žitnik

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