Belgium/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation
3.4.1 Overview of main structures and trends
Since 1993, the Communities have enjoyed self-government in terms of international relations, which allows them to enter into agreements not only with states, but also with regions or provinces of foreign countries. The Community Ministers responsible for culture rotate their participation on European Councils and international bodies.
Major trends in recent years:
- In the present system, subsidies for international activities are legally based in the framework of various decrees, like the Arts Decree, or the activities of the funds supporting literature and film respectively. In the Arts Decree there are two options for organisations: the incorporation of international activities into subsidies through multi-annual "envelope" grants. In addition, the Arts Decree provides for additional subsidies to be given to other organisations and to artists for their international projects, work visits, travel-accommodation-transport costs, translation, networking activities and support for the preparation of international projects in the context of European funding programmes.
- Even though the Flemish government defines priorities for the attribution of support to organisations, the concrete initiatives for international projects and collaborations as a rule arise from the bottom-up, from the cultural field itself.
The Cultural Policy Document Culture ("Beleidsnota cultuur") 2009-2014 advances the reinforcement of the international cultural policy as one of the main strategic aims of cultural policy. Some of the additional points of attention for this period are the following:
- Development of new policies for residencies and support for international presentation;
- Strengthening the Flemish involvement in international and multilateral organisations;
- Further support for the implementation of the European Heritage label, which has been developed by a number of EU-countries including Belgium and adopted by the European Commission;
- Ratification of the FARO-convention (27 Oct. 2005) on cultural heritage;
- "Active observance" of the 1973 and 2003 UNESCO Conventions on mobility of collections and immaterial heritage;
- The UNESCO convention on cultural diversity has not been ratified; the policy letter mentions no engagement to do so formally. However, it mentions the intention of the minister to check all protocols for international cooperation for their conformity with the convention. With the agreement for ratification of the convention by the Flemish parliament, only the federal government needs to consent to ratification. This means the Belgian ratification entered its final phase and should be finalised by the end of 2012.
- Supporting the image of Flanders as a creative and innovative region, via cultural heritage and the arts.
- Further development of bilateral relations with selected countries, including evaluation of the instruments supporting the Flemish-Dutch relations, and focusing on sustainable development of relations with Eastern Europe (Poland). Countries defined as priority partners are the Netherlands and South Africa. However, no budgets are specifically marked for bilateral collaboration.
In 1993, the French Community set up a public body to be solely responsible for international relations (General Commission for the International Relations of the French Community of Belgium - GCIR). This body is mandated to carry out the French Community's foreign policy, and for administrating cultural agreements signed with other countries, regions or provinces of foreign countries. The GCIR develops its own priorities for the promotion and dissemination of culture and the arts created in the French Community, for multilateral action with UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the European Union (and associated bodies), with industrialised or otherwise French-speaking countries, for more strategic action towards countries in the South, and for youth exchange policies.
Chapter published: 09-03-2012