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The Prime Minister Took A Picture Under A Desecrated National Symbol

Many people were outraged when, on Monday, after news of the ceremony to mark the breakthrough in the second tube of the Karavanke tunnel, they took a closer look at the pictures, which showed how high-ranking representatives of Slovenian politics and high-ranking guests from abroad had posed smiling in front of the image of the destroyed coat of arms of the Republic of Slovenia. The Heraldica Slovenica Heraldry Society was particularly outraged by the photographs and wrote a letter of protest (available in Slovenian here: “National symbols should not be destroyed and should always be treated with respect because they represent us,” they explained in the letter.

The organisers of the ceremony “painted the coat of arms of the Republic of Slovenia on the wall for the purpose of the ceremonial breakthrough, and then used heavy machinery to destroy the wall bearing the coat of arms in order to carry out the ceremonial breakthrough. The photographs that were used to report on the event in all the media showed the destroyed coat of arms of the Republic of Slovenia on the breached wall,” the Heraldica Slovenica association pointed out, noting that the event was attended by Prime Minister Robert Golob, the Minister of Infrastructure Alenka Bratušek, the Austrian Governor of Carinthia, Peter Kaiser, the Turkish and Austrian ambassadors to the Republic of Slovenia, representatives of the Motorway Company of the Republic of Slovenia (Družba za avtoceste v Republiki Sloveniji – DARS), as well as representatives of the Austrian motorway and expressway company ASFINAG, representatives of the Turkish contractor, and other important guests. “It was therefore an important political event with the participation of high-ranking representatives of the Republic of Slovenia and high-ranking guests from abroad,” they added.

The Heraldica Slovenica association was appalled by the photographs showing the destroyed coat of arms, and they were particularly disappointed by the fact that the participants in the ceremony could be seen waving flags, and even applauding for the breakthrough. “Our indignation was all the greater because apparently none of the representatives of the state thought even for a moment that there was anything actually wrong with this behaviour,” they stressed.

This was in breach of the rules

The Heraldica Slovenica Heraldry Society pointed out that this was in breach of several regulations. Article 7 of the Act Regulating the Coat-of-Arms, Flag and Anthem of the Republic of Slovenia and the Flag of the Slovenian Nation states that “the coat of arms may not be used if it is damaged or if it is unsuitable for use, and it may not be used in a way that is contrary to public order or in such a way as to bring the Republic of Slovenia into disrepute.” Representatives of the association also said that Article 15 of the Protection of Public Order Act has been violated, which states that “whoever intentionally damages or destroys the coat of arms of the Republic of Slovenia in a public place shall be liable to a fine.” The “sad image of the half-destroyed coat of arms under which the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia was photographed” is a clear proof of the violation of the two rules mentioned above, according to them.

It is also morally reprehensible

Even if such an act were not illegal, the association warned that it is “morally reprehensible and controversial and contrary to internationally established rules on the treatment of national symbols” to do something like that. Our national symbols, they said, deserve all respect.

In the continuation of the letter, signed by the Chancellor of the Heraldica Slovenica Heraldry Society, Anže Hobič, and the President of the association, Aleksander Hribovšek, they recalled that since its foundation (in 1991), they have noticed that both individuals and state authorities have been using state symbols incorrectly. “Awareness of the importance of respect for our symbols is slowly improving, which makes it all the more shocking that the country’s top brass has indulged in such a faux pas, which really cannot be described in any other way than as utter stupidity based on a lack of a sense of the basic civilisational norms of dealing with important national symbols,” they were critical, saying that it was simply not clear to them how the people who proposed that this be done managed to come up with the idea of destroying the national coat of arms with an excavator. “The observation that the sacred and the sense of the sacred are disappearing from this world is not new. It is true that we have never advocated that national symbols should be seen as sacrosanct relics, but the complete absence of any respect that these symbols deserve is simply incredible,” they pointed out.

According to them, the symbolic desecration of the Slovenian coat of arms is all the more striking in light of the Prime Minister’s words, who said, “The breakthrough in both the first and the second tunnel tube is not only a symbolic act, it is much more than that. It is breaking a chain, one of the longest chains in Europe, it is breaking a chain that has unfortunately divided the members of the Slovenian nation many times in the past. Every breakthrough and every link through this chain is a national act, a state-building act, and that is why today is even more important…” According to the association, the writer of the text and the speaker were clearly aware of the symbolic weight of the moment and worded it correctly. If they cannot reproach what was said, they can, they say, reproach all those present for the fact that no one took issue with such treatment of the Slovenian coat of arms, which is “one of the three most important symbols of our common state.”

National symbols represent ourselves

They stated that they dare not even think about how the self-destructive act was viewed by foreign guests. They wondered where the people responsible for protocol who are employed in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Infrastructure, and, last but not least, the Motorway Company – DARS, were at that moment. “It is more than obvious that our association will not run out of work any time soon, trying to educate the youth and civil servants on the importance of national symbols,” they stressed, adding that if anyone is not sure about why the coat of arms deserves respect, they can explain it in the same way as they explain it to primary school pupils in the fourth grade. “National symbols should not destroyed and should always be treated with respect because they represent us. So, destroying them or treating them badly is the same as treating ourselves or our friends in the same way. Fourth graders usually understand this analogy very well,” they stressed, wondering whether the current authorities would be able to understand it as well.

Ž. N.

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