3.4.2 Public actors and cultural diplomacy
In principle, the Flemish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (Ministerie Internationaal Vlaanderen) has no cultural competence. Yet, the Ministry is responsible for "image building" abroad. In the case of promotion through cultural events, the Ministry for Culture is consulted. Flemish Representatives abroad have a budget for their cultural activities, which is provided from the overall culture budget of the Flemish government.
Flanders has concluded several international conventions, co-operation and cultural agreements with various countries and regions. The present Minister of Culture has announced the development of bilateral exchange programmes, which thus far has resulted in support for the Flemish performing arts in Poland.
There is no intention to elaborate a network of publicly mandated cultural agencies and institutes abroad. There is just one Flemish Cultural House abroad: "De Brakke Grond" in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
In 2004, the Flemish-Dutch House "de Buren" was inaugurated in Brussels. It was given the task of presenting and documenting the culture of the Low Countries and of providing a platform for debate on culture, society and politics in the Netherlands, Flanders and Europe. In May 2006, the Flemish Community and Morocco signed an agreement to set up "Daarkom", a Flemish-Moroccan House for Culture in Brussels, with a focus on intercultural dialogue.
For the policy term 2009-2014, an evaluation of the current instruments support the Flemish-Dutch cultural relations has been announced, which might have an effect on the future mission of "de Buren" and "de Brakke Grond".
Bilateral co-operation between the Flemish Community and the Netherlands is the first priority, not only in terms of internal exchange and co-operation between them, but to act jointly on external relations, e.g. the "Taalunie", the Dutch Language Union. The latter was founded in 1980 as an inter-governmental organisation representing the Netherlands and the Flemish Community. In 2004, Surinam became an associate member of the Union. Its mandate is to jointly promote the Dutch language and literature in the Dutch-speaking area and abroad.
Another priority in recent years was collaboration with South-Africa. It involved an integrated project covering all the cultural competences of the Minister of Culture (i.e., youth, arts, cultural heritage, socio-cultural work for adults), concentrated in four community centres in South-Africa. 2010 was the last operational year of this programme.
Flanders has a network of diplomatic Flemish Representations: in the Netherlands, France (also competent for UNESCO, OECD, Council of Europe), the UK (also competent for EWRB), Germany, Austria (also competent for Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic), the USA, Poland (also competent for the Baltic States), Southern Africa (South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland), Spain, and the multilateral organisations based in Geneva (WTO, WHO, UNAIDS, ILO), and the European Union. Under certain conditions, these Flemish Representations can support or set up cultural events with funding provided by the Ministry for Culture.
To carry its missions to a successful conclusion (see also chapter 3.4.1), the General Commission for the International Relations of the French Community of Belgium works with specialised agencies, which are managed jointly with the Ministry for the French Community: Wallonia-Brussels Music (WBM), Wallonia-Brussels Images (WBI), Wallonia-Brussels Theatre (WBT – Cultural Contact Point, in charge of the European programme Culture 2000), the International Youth Bureau (BIJ) and the Quebec Wallonia-Brussels Agency for Youth.
In addition to these specialised agencies, Wallonia-Brussels delegations relay the action of the French Community abroad, in particular in Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Bucharest, Rabat, Tunis, Algiers, Dakar, Kinshasa, Quebec, Santiago of Chile, and Hanoï. In Paris, the General Delegation is more specifically in charge of the diplomatic relations with France and with international organisations based in Paris.