Prime Minister Janez Janša: Culture is one of the key foundations of the Slovenian nation and the independent Slovenian state
Message by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia Janez Janša on Prešeren Day
Dear citizens of Slovenia,
Dear fellow Slovenians at home and abroad, dear friends,
Throughout history, our national culture has maintained the Slovenian existence and strengthened our national awareness, which was finally realised in Slovenia's independence. Culture is therefore one of the key foundations of the Slovenian nation and the independent Slovenian state. The fact that the Slovenian Cultural Holiday is a national holiday and a work‑free day shows how aware we are of its importance.
The coronavirus epidemic has strongly affected our lives and brought a whole new reality. Last year was difficult for all of us. We are aware that lockdown also placed a great burden on the culture sector. Therefore, the Government has earmarked EUR 36.4 million for assistance to artists, and cultural societies, institutions and institutes in the anti-corona packages to date. All this with the aim of ensuring that various cultural activities would survive this difficult period suffering as few consequences as possible. Slovenia could be a role model to other countries with regard to responsiveness and the extent of support provided due to the epidemic to the most affected activities, groups and individuals. In the 2021 budget, the funds allocated to the Ministry of Culture were increased by EUR 48.5 million compared to 2020, thus amounting to EU 238 million.
Culture has accompanied Slovenians through different historical periods. It has strengthened and cheered them through the worst hardships, encouraged them in landmark decisions. This mission of culture is being put to the test during the epidemic. In order to successfully deal with the epidemic, we have to join all our forces and the best that we as a nation can offer. It is therefore even harder to understand the response of some of Slovenian artists who took advantage of the situation brought about by the epidemic to widen the division among the public, to increase the doubt in the measures for preventing the spread of the virus, and to spread fear and hate. The situation is too serious to respond with street activism, threats and charlatan actions. We would expect a different, more state-building stance from culture, which is an essential part of a nation's spiritual existence and thus its source of power when dealing with difficult challenges.
The epidemic has caught us off guard in many ways. It exposed numerous weaknesses in our society. It has become even more evident how unwilling we are to accept diversity, to listen to each other, to respect each other, to maintain a culture of dialogue and to communicate with one another. It revealed how quickly we are willing to forget the most vulnerable and how unwilling we are to give up our comfort and established lifestyle. The epidemic has also raised some important issues in the cultural field. Maybe now is the time for culture to hold up a mirror to itself.
In the second half of 2021, Slovenia will hold the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the second time. This will be an opportunity for Slovenian culture to achieve greater visibility. I believe that with its creative energy and freshness, it will validate Slovenia's place in the European culture. The presidency will also be an opportunity to join forces with Slovenians living abroad and revive the common cultural space.
Because of the epidemic, today's cultural holiday will certainly be quite different than usual. Nevertheless, I hope you will enjoy it just as much. I am pleased to note that numerous artists have found new, digital ways of creating and new and innovative solutions for their artistic expression. When creativity is spread among people regardless of the physical barriers and other limitations, the eternal truth that true art is never restricted in time and space is reaffirmed once more. Art is free and therefore timeless.
Even though we have been through tough times, we should never lose hope. Because nothing lasts forever and this hardship too shall pass. Let us always remember and be encouraged by the words of hope that the great poet France Prešeren wrote in his Wreath of Sonnets:
"For all Slovenes will then dawn brighter days and kindlier stars upon their land will gaze, more brilliant songs will come with better times."
My sincere congratulations on Prešeren Day.