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Belgium/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and debates  

4.2.1 Conceptual issues of policies for the arts

Flemish Community

In many European countries, the legitimacy of subsidies for arts and culture is under pressure, with government expenditure being under increasing strain by the financial and economic crisis. In Flanders, this is no different. There has recently been an increasing focus on the funding of the arts. There were discussions on financial aspects of arts funding (subsidies versus additional funding, business models and economic impact of arts policy), which has sparked off other debates about the role of arts and culture in society and the relationship between arts and politics.

Anno 2012, the context for these debates is the new funding round under the Arts Decree (multiannual envelopes for the term 2013-2016 for all artistic sectors except film and literature). The budget outlines for this round are not yet entirely clear (in february 2012). Government expenditure is still under pressure, but the Flemish Prime Minister and Minister of Culture have indicated that in 2012, culture will not be subjected to heavier cuts than other sectors, because of the importance the Flemish government is giving to the role of culture in society.

It is to be expected that the funding round under the Arts Decree will lead to a number of revised equilibria in the artistic landscape:

  • a new balance between structural envelopes and project grants: this is currently 98-2 and would evolve into a ratio of 90-10;
  • balance between artistic disciplines: the Arts Decree works with a system of evaluation committees, which is organized according to artistic disciplines. A part of the budget for the structural round is not yet assigned to particular discipline, and might be used for revising the equilibria between artistic sectors; and
  • in preparation for the new funding round pushed the Minister of Culture put forward a number of issues which applicants and committees should take into account: partnership and cooperation, consideration for the position of individual artists, the social embedding of the organization, relationship to other sectors such as education and ecology/sustainability.

French-speaking Community of Belgium

Questions relating to artistic policy arise in terms of refinancing packages of aid designed to help artistic employment out of a situation of insecurity. To bolster the development of artistic expressions such as public youth theatre, an aspect which has been somewhat overlooked when support for performing arts has been given out, it is important to be able to deliver structural financial support to raise the profile of these sectors.

More broadly, an employment register might make it possible to renegotiate the decree on non-merchant employment so that performing arts operators can benefit, in the same way as libraries, cultural centres and continuing education and youth organisations.

In addition, given the changes made in late 2013 by the Federal government in terms of employment and social security, and the increasing insecurity of the artistic professions, the French-speaking Community of Belgium is thinking about setting up a permanent consultative platform spanning all levels of power (Communities, Regions and Federal) and bodies representing artists, to take account of the everyday problems being encountered, and to amend or rectify the legal instruments issued in late 2013, in such a way as to save the artistic professions from being plunged into poverty.

In 2013, a cooperation agreement was signed between the Flemish Community and the French-speaking Community of Belgium, to provide for the setting up of a platform for cooperation between the two administrations in order on the one hand to support the partnerships set up by the cultural institutions and on the other, to run the institutions co-financed by the two Communities (Festival de Wallonie/Festivaal van Vlaanderen, NEXT festival, Couleur Café, Passaporta, Muziekpublique and the Zinnekeparade).

Chapter published: 02-12-2014

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