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New Directions of Cultural Policy 2014-2020 were published by government in February 2014, with a new focus on cultural practice, sustainability and culture as a constituent part of other fields of society and government.

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Estonia/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

During the year 2013 a new document that updated the previous policy priorities, Directions of Cultural Policy 2014-2020 was drafted. The Ministry of Culture made attempts to make the preparation process of the document a public process, engaging experts and opening a call for proposals, more so than with earlier similar documents. It was adopted by the government in February 2014, replacing an earlier policy document from 1998 (see chapter 2.3). The document considers the priority of the Ministry of Culture to be the continuation of the Estonian nation, its language and culture. Compared to earlier corresponding documents, there is more emphasis on diversity and on the promotion of innovation in culture. Furthermore, the creation of a society that values creativity is set as the goal for the next seven years. The priorities of cultural policy are stated as:

  • to enable the development and access  to cultural facilities for the creators as well as audiences across the country, which includes improvement of cultural education;
  • to adjust higher education in cultural field with the needs of society and demographical changes and to make it internationally competitive;
  • to co-opt professional associations to the decision making process in the cultural field;
  • to establish transparent funding and responsible usage of the architectural infrastructure;
  • to support creative enterprises and technological services with international and private funding;
  • to improve the legal conditions of independent cultural workers (including access to public health insurance);
  • to enable international cultural collaboration and participate in work of international cultural organisations;
  • to support the preservation of Estonian and other local national identities and support Estonian migrant-communities connecting with Estonia;
  • to support creative and cultural industries as a part of a knowledge based economy,
  • to continue to protect authors' rights by adjusting laws with technological developments;
  • to digitalise cultural heritage in correlation with international standards;
  • to specify responsibilities and tasks between local governments and the state; and
  • to improve access to cultural participation for people with special needs.

This extensive list reflects the main areas of the Ministry of Culture's planned activities. Separately from the overall principles that will act as bases of priority for future political decisions, specific goals and objectives are set in the document for the following fields: architecture, design, performing arts, film, sound art, literature, visual arts, cultural journalism, cultural diversity, preservation of cultural heritage, museums, libraries and folk culture. As stated in chapter 2.3, while the earlier central priority was the maintenance of the established network of cultural institutions, the new focus has moved to cultural practice, enabling its internationalisation and export, as well as development of collaborations. Compared to earlier development plans, the document pays more attention to the working conditions of independent cultural workers. The document also stresses sustainability and envisions culture as a constituent part of other fields of society and government.

Several programmes targeting the development of non-profit organisations and enterprises have been designed and launched by the state-owned foundation Enterprise Estonia (EAS) in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture. The programmes for NGOs and the public sector target mainly regional and local development, while the programmes targeted at the private sector provide support for participating in international fairs in order to improve the image of Estonian cultural goods and services, and to foster collaboration with partners abroad. The programmes receive funding from the EU Structural Funds.

Media visibility has recently accompanied some major instruments of cultural financing. This is mainly due to the budget constraints caused by the economic recession. Several recent plans for centralisation introduced by the Minister of Culture have been met with fierce public criticism. In August 2011, the Minister of Culture announced plans for merging the second largest art museum, Tartu Art Museum, with the Art Museum of Estonia in Tallinn. The plan was publicly protested against by the staff of Tartu Art Museum (Sirp 23.09.2011), the Association of Estonian Art Historians and Estonian Artists' Association (both in Sirp 21.10.2011) who accused the Minister of a lack of transparency, unnecessary centralisation and for endangering an institution with a strong identity. As an outcome of this criticism the idea of turning Tartu Art Museum into a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia has been dropped. Instead a new director was appointed by the Ministry to lead the museum in Tartu since March 2013, the organisation has been restructured.

Vivid public discussion has also continued about construction of new infrastructure. The year 2013 saw the initiation of construction works for the National Museum in Tartu and the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn, for which international architectural competitions have been organised in recent years. A former industrial building in the edge of the city centre will be converted for the purposes of the Estonian Academy of Arts (due by 2016). The State Audit's statement of December 2010 criticised the Ministry for not having included the maintenance costs of new buildings in their budget plans for the coming years. The Minister of Culture responded to the criticism by referring to the principles of cultural policy adopted by a parliamentary document in 1998, then still officially in force. In that document, construction activities have high priority.

Chapter published: 13-10-2014

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