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Artists attack government plans for Slovak National Theatre

BUILDING work at the Slovak National Theatre (SND) has been stopped as artists’ organizations protested against the idea of turning the operation into a commercial centre.

The Parliamentary Committee for Culture called on Economy Minister Pavol Rusko not to sign the contract on the partial transfer of the site into private hands, according to the daily SME.

Opponents of private investment in the theatre attacked Rusko and Culture Minister Rudolf Chmel (both members of political party ANO). They object that no public tender was announced for the completion of the work and that there is no reliable expert opinion on the market value of the building.

The artists also dislike the idea that the SND would have to rent utilities from the investor.

President Ivan Gašparovič added his criticism to the cabinet's plan to turn the as-yet uncompleted SND building into a commercial cultural and congress centre.

Gašparovič described it as a very commercial proposition, adding that "culture is secondary" in the scheme. The president thinks that the revamped building should be a showcase for Slovak culture and art, which is why he is concerned about how it will be completed.

The Economy Ministry is expected to close a deal shortly with a private US company, Truthheim, to complete the project as a culture and congress centre. The agreement took the form of a memorandum signed by the government in late 2004.

The Slovak cabinet gave permission in early December to Truthheim Invest to pour millions of euros into the site that houses the SND.

The injection of capital was hoped to finally complete a construction project started nearly 20 years ago.

Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports
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