3.4.1 Overview of main structures and trends
Since the debate on a new conception of foreign cultural policy in the 1960s, it has been considered the third pillar of foreign affairs. During the 1980s, first ideas to shape this policy in a more dialogue-oriented way came up, e.g. in conferences organised by the Auswärtiges Amt (German Federal Foreign Office). The latter continues to be the main actor in this field, despite a growing influence of local and regional bodies and NGOs. Since the end of the 1990s, there has been intensive discussion on new aims and instruments of foreign cultural policy, which was reflected, for example, in the position paper "Konzeption 2000" and the "Aktionsplan zivile Krisenprävention, Konfliktlösung und Friedenskonsolidierung" (Action Plan for Civil Crisis Prevention, Conflict Resolution and Peace Consolidation). Following the elections on the federal level in 2005 and 2009, political changes took place in the Federal Government and debates on the role of foreign cultural policy ensued. In 2006 and 2007, major conferences were held to highlight the new political importance attributed to foreign cultural policies and to discuss the future developments.
In the last 20 years, foreign cultural policy has repeatedly suffered from cuts in funding, which in part have led to the closure of a number of branches of the Goethe Institute. This trend came to an end in 2005, when the higher place of cultural foreign policy on political agendas was underlined by improvements in the federal budget. Against the former trends, funding for foreign cultural policies increased during the following years.