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Bulgaria/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model

In the course of Bulgaria's transition to democracy and a market economy, a series of cultural reforms have been conducted in the past ten years, with the following objectives:

  • decentralisation of the administration and financing of culture;
  • freedom of action and formation of market-oriented attitudes of cultural institutions and artists;
  • amendments to cultural legislation designed to meet the new socio-economic challenges;
  • harmonisation with European Union legislation;
  • establishment of an administrative environment facilitating cultural development and European integration;
  • guarantees of the equality of state, municipal and private cultural institutions; and
  • strengthening the role of the non-governmental sector.

Decentralisation, regarded as the top priority at the start of transition, has remained a controversial issue both for cultural circles and the general public. At present, there are three sources of conflict:

  • central government and the legislature which, on the one hand, are decentralising the financing and administration of cultural institutions while, on the other, retaining partial control over the latter;
  • local government, which is eager for greater autonomy, but still prefers most of the responsibilities for and financing of culture to be borne by the central government; and
  • NGOs, which are the most active champion of decentralisation, but are still weak in terms of networking and in their influence on the legislature and opinion-making.

The fiscal policy pursued by the national government was a centralised model of budget financing with subsidies equally shared among the existing networks and cultural institutions. In a context of economic crisis and budget restrictions, this meant less and less funds for their core activities and doomed some of the structures to de-professionalisation. At the end of the 1990s the Ministry of Culture has started financing the cultural activities of these institutions on a competitive basis, which makes it possible to provide differentiated support to the individual cultural institutions, depending on their contribution to culture and the artistic and economic results of their activities. This new way of financing is based on the transfer of part of the state subsidies for cultural institutions to concrete creative projects on the basis of equal treatment of applicants.

In recent years, joint financing - by the national and municipal budget - of theatres, opera houses and philharmonic orchestras has been a definite achievement. However, due to the permanent financial problems of the municipalities it has been difficult to reach agreements with the Ministry of Culture on their contributions, and municipalities do not always keep their part of the deal. That is why developing local cultural policies and strategies still remains a good intention rather than a fact. Cinema and literature have no state-subsidised structures-state subsidies are rather granted to individual projects on the basis of competitive bidding.

It is hard to define an overall model of cultural policy applicable to the sector in Bulgaria. The observations registered after 1989 tend to reveal an eclectic approach and pragmatic decisions "by the job", according to the aims of each governmental programme, but not to an overall vision characterised by a long term development strategy.

Chapter published: 20-01-2011

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