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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.

Flemish Community

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.

French-speaking Community of Belgium

Wallonie-Bruxelles International (WBI) is the agency tasked with the French-speaking Community of Belgium’s international relations.It is the instrument for the international policy conducted by the Walloon Region, the French-speaking Community of Belgium and the Committee of the French Community of the Brussels-Capital Region.

WBI’s role is to manage the cultural agreements signed with other States, but equally with Regions or Provinces in foreign countries. WBI’s priorities are the promotion and dissemination of the culture and arts created in the French-speaking Community of Belgium; multilateral action with UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the European Union and the various bodies associated with them in cultural terms; the French-speaking countries, whether industrialised or not; more strategic action aimed at the countries of the South and boosting youth exchange policies.

Under agreements with 70 countries and regions, WBI supports creators and entrepreneurs in Wallonia and Brussels. WBI handles the promotion of the constituent parts of Wallonia and Brussels as entities in which the capacity for international action is vested, and defends the values and interests of each of the parties, in a spirit of cooperation and mutual assistance.

Actions are underway in the framework of:

  • development cooperation,
  • human rights,
  • culture,
  • health and social affairs,
  • the environment,
  • youth exchanges,
  • education and training,
  • higher education,
  • scientific research.

Wallonie-Bruxelles International also acts via a network of Delegations with diplomatic status in Algiers, Beijing, Berlin, Bucharest, Dakar, Geneva, Hanoi, Kinshasa, the Hague, Paris, Prague, Quebec, Rabat, Santiago in Chile, Tunis, Warsaw and Brussels (representation to the European Union).

For the purposes of carrying out its missions, WBI has specialist agencies, run jointly with the Ministry of the French-speaking Community of Belgium: Wallonie-Bruxelles Musiques (WBM), Wallonie-Bruxelles Images (WBI), Wallonie-Bruxelles Théâtre (WBT), Wallonie-Bruxelles Design et Mode (WBDM), the International Youth Bureau (BIJ) and the Agence Québec Wallonie-Bruxelles pour la Jeunesse.

WBI and the Ministry of the FWB likewise run projects stemming from European programmes such as Interreg (Greater Region, France-Wallonia-Flanders), Leader and the European Social Fund. In 2014, the Creative desk which runs the ‘Creative Europe’ programme was set up within the Ministry.

When it comes to the cinema, Belgium is one of the States which have ratified the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production, the aim of which is to encourage the development of European cinematic co-production.

Via the Cinema and Audio-visual Centre (CCA), the French-speaking Community of Belgium participates in and contributes to Eurimages, the Council of Europe’s cultural fund for support for co-production, distribution and exhibition of European documentaries and feature films.

Created jointly by the European Commission and the Cinema and Audio-visual Centre of the French-speaking Community of Belgium (CCA), the MEDIA Desk Belgium – French Community – is available to keep audio-visual professionals and the general public informed about the developments and opportunities offered by the European Union’s MEDIA Programme and the European mechanisms providing support for cinema and television.

The French-speaking Community of Belgium has also signed cinematic co-production agreements with a number of States including France, China, Italy and Switzerland.

Finally, in addition to managing programmes, our institutions take part in all manner of international trade events and fairs, such as the Venice Biennale, the Venice Mostra and FIFF, in support of our cultural operators (creators, producers, artists, etc.).

Chapter published: 02-12-2014

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