STA, 19 May 2020 - The Trieste National Hall, which used to be the centrepiece of Slovenian cultural life in the town, will be symbolically returned to the Slovenian community there at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the building's arson, Il Piccolo reported on Tuesday.
The University of Trieste, which currently owns the building in the city's centre, will get the building of the former military hospital in Trieste in return.
According to the Trieste-based newspaper, the Italian Interior Ministry has already sent a letter of intent to all the stakeholders.
The takeover ceremony will be held on 13 July, with the presidents of Slovenia and Italy in attendance, and it will be a symbolic gesture as the official procedure to transfer the ownership will take a few years, the paper added.
As the building currently houses the university's translation department, Italian Interior Ministry representative Michele di Bari said the university had to be compensated for the building whose value was estimated at EUR 9.5 million.
"We are coordinating the efforts that the Slovenian minority is fully returned the building ... which until the tragic events in July 1920 was the seat of Slovenian culture," the ministry said.
This is a reference to the National Hall or the Slovenian Cultural Centre being burned on 13 July 2020 by Italian Fascists after a number of rallies had been held in the city.
Under the plan, the ownership of the building will first be transferred to the Italian state, while the university will get the former military hospital, where a student dormitory is housed, free of charge.
Furthermore, the Municipality of Trieste will transfer the ownership of a building in Trieste to the university, where the translation department will be relocated.
The Italian agency for state assets will then put the premises in the building at the disposal of the Slovenian Cultural and Economic Association (SKGZ) and the Council of Slovenian Organisations (SSO).
Even before the translation department gets fully relocated, the Slovenian minority organisations will be able to use a few rooms on the ground floor for their activities.
The procedure is expected to take a few years and all stakeholders will have to hold their part of the bargain, including the Municipality of Trieste, whose council "poses a risk that things could fall through," Il Piccolo said.
Built in 1904, the National Hall was commissioned by a Slovenian cultural centre, and was home to a theatre, hotel, savings bank, a ballroom and a print shop and housed gatherings of most Slovenian associations in the city.
The project was a thorn in the side of those Italians in Trieste who looked down on Slovenians, and its arson marked the start of a painful period for the Slovenian community that ended up on the Italian side of the border.
The building was restored between 1988 and 1990.