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Artists protest SND construction plans

CONSTRUCTION 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 asked Economy Minister Pavol Rusko not to sign the contract on the partial transfer of the building into private hands, according to the daily SME.

Opponents of the transfer criticized Rusko and Culture Minister Rudolf Chmel for failing to announce a public tender for the completion of construction at the SND. They also objected to the fact that the Slovak government has not produced reliable expert opinion on the market value of the building.

The artists' organizations also opposed 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 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 private American company Truthheim Invest LLC to complete the building project by transforming the SND into a cultural 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 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.

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