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Under Previous Governments, Slovenian Culture Has Transformed into an Extension of Politics: Minister Simoniti is Returning Culture to Cultural Workers

At the interpellation, which began on Wednesday, the 24th of March 2021, Minister of Culture Vasko Simoniti had the opportunity to show his achievements in culture, despite the fact that this is one of the sectors that was most affected by the global crisis of the epidemic. Under Simoniti’s leadership, culture has received record budget funds – as much as 70 million euros more than during the time of the ministers from the SD party. As part of the European cohesion policy, the Ministry of Culture paid 86 percent more funds in 2020 than it did in 2019 for the projects to which the NGOs and the self-employed in culture were able to apply to as participating beneficiaries or final recipients. During the time of the epidemic, the state also provided basic income to cultural workers, as the cultural institutions remain closed, and more funds were also earmarked for book and film production.

“In my work, I was aware of my competencies, obligations and duties, so I took effective action regarding the pandemic and its consequences in the cultural sector, as well as in other areas of cultural life in the Republic of Slovenia, including the fact that I provided a record budget for Culture,” said Minister of Culture, Vasko Simoniti, at the interpellation. He believes that he has not taken ineffective action in limiting and eliminating the consequences of the complete blockade of work and the provision of cultural services due to restrictive measures which were implemented in order to combat the epidemic. “I actively participated in the preparation of all intervention laws, prepared for the citizens, in order to mitigate the effects of the epidemic,” he explained.

As he has already pointed out in the past, the Ministry has negotiated a record amount of funds for culture in the years 2021 and 2022; namely, they negotiated the highest amount in the history of independent Slovenia. The planned budget for culture for 2021 has thus increased by 46 million euros. As part of the European cohesion policy, the Ministry of Culture, despite the epidemic in 2020, paid out 83 percent more funds to all beneficiaries than in 2019.

At Wednesday’s interpellation, Vasko Simoniti pointed out that the numbers do not lie. He explained that a record budget of 237 million euros had been allocated for culture, which is 47 million euros more than last year. Higher funding was provided for the self-employed (despite the epidemic), more funding was earmarked for the film industry (1 million euros), as well as for publishing (1 million euros). In the field of creativity, which includes theatrical, musical, visual and intermedia arts, funding increased to 1.9 million euros. The Ministry also approved the payment of intervention funds (more than 2 million euros) for the regular operating of the national public broadcasting organisation RTV Slovenia during the time of the epidemic.

1.4 million euros more for the self-employed in culture
Funds for the self-employed in culture also increased by as much as 1.4 million euros, which included the payment of social security contributions for the self-employed, as well as scholarships and sickness allowances, while funds for the purchase of library materials increased by half a million euros. In the budgets for 2021 and 2022, the minister managed to implement the Act about providing funds for some programs in the culture of the Republic of Slovenia, which will provide an additional 22.25 million euros to the cultural sector in these years. Basic income for the self-employed in culture has been paid continuously since October when the second wave of the epidemic begun. The Ministry made a special effort to also include the self-employed in culture with irregular incomes in this. Thus, the self-employed in culture have been receiving income to which others were not entitled to, ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic.

There was a lot of talk about the cultural euro during the time of Marjan Šarec’s government; however, it was actually introduced by the current government. In 2021, the state will provide funds on the basis of the adopted law on the cultural euro, which will bring an additional 122.6 million euros to Slovenian culture in the period from 2021 to 2027. With the help of European funds, the list of priority investments for renovation now also includes the most important projects in the field of culture, including the renovation of SNG Drama, the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, the Museum of Slovenian Independence, and the Rotovž Centre in Maribor.

During the times of the ministers of culture from the SD party, there were 70 million euros less in the budget, despite the economic boom
As MP Alenka Jeraj pointed out at the interpellation, beneficiaries in the field of culture will, in addition to the Ministry of Culture’s efforts, additionally also draw on the intervention funds for 2020. They will receive funds in the amount of more than 68.5 million euros, while in 2020, as many as 83 percent more cohesion funds were paid than the year before. As part of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, additional European grants of 87 million euros are planned for culture. Among other things, investments in public cultural infrastructure increased by 20.5 million euros.

“During the time of the Minister of Culture Dejan Prešiček, the budget was 162 million euros, and during the time of the second SD Minister Zoran Poznič, it was 172.8 million euros, so 70 million euros less than what the SDS Minister Vasko Simoniti, Ph.D., negotiated,” Jeraj explained. In 2021, 238 million euros will be available for creators of culture and cultural programmes. “Never before in the 30 years of our independent state has the cultural budget been so high.” In addition to all of the above, the Ministry is also conducting intensive negotiations for the new cohesion financial perspective 2021-2027, to strengthen the cultural sector and for the programme changes, and to also extend the deadlines for the implementation of projects planned for 2020, including the completion of operations from cohesion funds.

Sara Rančigaj

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