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Cultural diplomacy between Austria and Slovenia

AUTHOR / Pia Nikolič

At the end of November, Andreas Pawlitschek and Barbara Koželj Podlogar stepped into the cold white halls of a former sugar manufacturing plant on the banks of the Ljubljanica river. The renovated Cukrarna Gallery embraced us with open arms and the early hours before noon, before the arrival of most visitors, were perfect for a meeting in the great hall.

The interview was practically a last-minute arrangement, as Andreas Pawlitschek, the director of the Austrian Cultural Forum Ljubljana, is retiring in December. He’ll pass the reigns onto his successor after many prolific years working in cultural diplomacy, making sure the connection between neighbours Slovenia and Austria will continue. They’re bound by a centuries-long common history, which among other things also led to the fact that Slovenian is spoken on both sides of the current border.

The Austrian Cultural Forum has been known under this name since 2001 and is the successor of the Department of Culture at the Austrian Consulary General, founded in 1990. Also under its auspices is the Austrian library in Maribor. Both departments work with various partners partially due to them not having their own vicinities to host events.

Since it takes two to have a dialogue, we also invited Barbara Koželj Podlogar, Slovenian art historian, philosopher, cultural diplomat and acting manager at the Creativity Directorate at the Slovenian Ministry of Culture, who has already worked with Pawlitschek on several projects. She held her current position before already, from 2007 to 2013, was head of the European Affairs and International Cooperation Service, as well as the head of the Slovenian Cultural and Information Centre SKICA in Vienna. Furthermore, she participated in presentations of Slovenian literary works at international book fairs in Prague, Leipzig and Frankfurt and held a key role during the European Capital of Culture in Maribor in 2012 as a councilmember and caretaker of the project at the Ministry of Culture. Our interview discussed what cultural diplomacy even is, how it is applied between the two countries and some past projects between Austria and Slovenia.