2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model
In the 1990s, the system of long term policy planning was introduced in Flanders. This meant that each Minister presented a five-year plan outlining the activities and long term objectives for the coming period. The specific details of these plans are spelled out in yearly "policy letters".
The principle of political primacy applies in Flanders. This means that the minister is advised by advisory bodies and the administration, but the final decision is in the hands of the minister or the government. The minister can either accept or reject this advice, but must provide significant justification in the case of the latter.
The advisory system is divided into two separate parts: one concerning strategic advice and the other concerning specific advice on the allocation of subsidies.
With the implementation of the Arts Decree and the Cultural Heritage Decree in 2004 (amended in 2008), the advice structure changed for both domains. There is an advisory body for both arts and cultural heritage as well as various assessment committees for the evaluation of subsidy requests. Both advisory bodies have a general advisory task and are to ensure quality assessment. For more information on these Decrees, see chapter 5.2.
There is also an advisory body for adult education and culture dissemination, with sectoral advisory bodies.
On July 9th 2003, the Flemish Parliament approved a Decree Concerning Strategic Advisory Councils (see chapter 3.1). A strategic advisory council – made up of independent experts and representatives of civil society – was set up for each "homogeneous policy area", such as "Culture, Youth, Sports and Media ". These strategic advisory councils provide advice on policy proposals (based on its own initiative or in response to requests from the government) and legal counsel on planned legislation. A new umbrella Strategic Advisory Council for Culture, Youth, Sports and Media was established in 2008.
There are, however, two exceptions to the principle of political primacy in the Flemish policy model. In 2000, a Literature Fund was set up to implement the government's literature policy and to grant subsidies. In 2002, the Flemish Audiovisual Fund was established to support and promote audiovisual creations. Both funds have reached a management agreement with the Flemish government. These exceptions should not be mistaken for the existence of a comprehensive system of cultural funds which make decisions independent of the government.
Since the legislative period 1999-2004, the government has introduced a series of "support centres" ("steunpunten") designed to undertake supporting activities for the cultural sector on the one side, and on the other side to act as intermediary between the cultural sector and government, by informing the sector on cultural policy and by informing the government on tendencies and expectations in the sector. Each support centre has an agreement with the government for a period of four to five years.
Concerning the division of responsibilities between government levels there is a movement towards more autonomy by elaborating policy plans and concluding covenants. For heritage, this has already resulted in several covenants: 20 with (clusters of) municipalities, 1 with the Flemish Community Commission in Brussels and 5 with provinces (current state of affairs in 2011).
The French Community exercises its competence over the territories of Wallonia and Brussels, the latter of which was home to the majority of cultural institutions and associations in French-speaking Belgium. Over the past decade, the government has been examining means to decentralise responsibility for cultural institutions in Wallonia and for more equitable division with Brussels. They have devised their cultural policies to reinforce partnership with the towns, municipalities and rural areas via special contracts in fields such as cultural centres, libraries, youth and continuing education organisations, community centres of expression and creativity, youth centres, regional drama centres, community television stations, and reception and production units.
The cultural model of the French Community widely rests on the principle of subsidiarity: support to initiatives led by cultural associations or operators. This support is organised by decrees that define the conditions of access, of granting, and of the justification of subsidies.
This model is currently under heavy criticism, but is not fundamentally questioned. The main difficulty that arises from this subsidiarity policy is that an increasing number of beneficiaries obtain recurrent support. As the budgets are limited, beneficiaries only obtain insufficient means to successfully carry out their projects.
The representative function plays an important role in the enforcement of cultural policies. There are over 30 consultative bodies or commissions which advise the Minister and submit proposals or recommendations during policy making processes and in the selection of projects.
The German-speaking Community mainly supports non-profit organisations, clubs and municipalities in the following four ways:
The promotional policy pursued by the German-speaking Community constitutes the basis for its cultural work and is presently governed by a variety of orders, decrees and circulars. Most of the rules date from the 1980s and 1990s and have hitherto been applied piecemeal to the needs of players in the cultural field. The government's aim is to scrutinise the rules in thorough detail and redraft them from the ground up.
The government that was installed in 2004 has drawn up a catalogue of concrete measures for implementing its programme. The most important measure in the cultural area is a renewal of the concept of cultural support and the drafting of a set of rules that at one and the same time reduced administrative expenditure to a minimum and are easy for cultural players to implement. The leeway thus opened up in terms of what can be done and its financial ramifications mean that it is possible to pay greater heed to the needs for multi-faceted cultural activities that cover a multitude of different areas and to construct lasting cooperation.
Conscious as it is of the growing importance of audiovisual and electronic media, the provision of media skills and the offering of online media services form the core of the Community's media policies. Expansion of the media presence of the German-speaking Community and adjustment of the legislation in line with European directives are further goals.