Public culture institutions are struggling financially at local authority level but also on the state level.
Cultural education is a current priority and the next report on education in Germany will focus on this area.
4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities
The collapse of the system in Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany in 1989/90 produced new cultural tasks, both within the Federal Republic of Germany and in its relations with European neighbours.
The difficult financial situation of all public funds has been a determining factor in cultural policy discussions on the municipal and Länder level since the mid-1990s, and increasingly so since the turn of the century.
The economic and financial crisis of 2008/2009 also impacted on private and public culture financing. During the crisis years the promotion of culture from private sources declined, whereas the effects of the crisis on public institutions only became visible to a greater extent in the culture budgets for the years 2010 and 2011. Altogether, public debts have increased during these years and have reached the highest level since the end of World War II, even though the economic developments have been more favourable in 2010. In particular, local authorities / communities suffer from increasing debts. Over the last years, more functions have been transferred to local authorities / communities without additional financial resources and declining revenues. Currently, pressure on public culture institutions is high for local authorities / communities but also on the state level. At the same time and in line with its growing responsibilities, the Federal Government increased its cultural expenses for 2011 for the fifth time in a row. Yet, the government majority in the Bundestag rejected motions for financial support for culture promotion in financially suffering communities (see chapter 6.2).
In the past five years, discussions and action (on the part of both public and private actors) have focused on:
The main topics of the current legislative periods, presented by the Federal Cultural Commissioner of Cultural and Media affairs in November 2009, were amendments to laws in the fields of copyright; social insurance for self-employed artists; and politics of remembrance. The current overall topic is cultural education, not only in the domain of culture but also in other political areas such as education. For example, the next report on education in Germany will focus on cultural education.
During the 1990s, the Bundestag (German Parliament), the Bundesrat (Council made up of representatives from the 16 Länder) and the Bundesregierung (Federal Government) all moved to Germany's new capital city Berlin. The transfer of power from Bonn (former capital) to Berlin underscored the national cultural significance of the new capital and led to a growing commitment on the part of the Federal government to support cultural life in the city. In this context, a "Capital Culture Contract" was signed between the Federal Government and the Land Berlin which specifies areas of support, namely:
More federal competence for cultural affairs
In 1998, the Federal Government set out to consolidate its (still limited) competencies in the field of culture through the creation of a Federal Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs and a corresponding Parliamentary Committee. This was followed in 2002 by the establishment of a Kulturstiftung des Bundes (Federal Cultural Foundation). While the creation of these bodies was initially highly controversial, there is now greater acceptance of these offices. Nevertheless, debates arise from time to time regarding the reach of the Federal Government's involvement in the cultural field, for example: in 2004 the Bundesrat refused to allow the Federal Government to take over the running of the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts and in 2005 it did not agree to the establishment of a Stiftung Baukultur (Federal Foundation for Architecture). In the meantime, demarcation disputes have been resolved, with both institutions operating autonomously on the basis of national laws and funding provided by the Federal Government. In 2006 and May 2009, reforms of the federal system came into effect which mainly implies a restructuring of the financial relations between the federal government and the Länder. As an integral part, a debt limit for the federal level and the Länder is legally stipulated in the Constitution.
Streamlining and optimising cultural funding
At the time of the establishment of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (Federal Cultural Foundation) there was an intense debate between the Federal Government and the Länder regarding measures to streamline and optimise the system for funding cultural activities and a merger between the Kulturstiftung der Länder (Cultural Foundation of the Länder) and the Kulturstiftung des Bundes. Negotiations to merge both foundations failed in December 2003, and the Federal Government terminated its commitment to the Cultural Foundation of the Länder at the end of 2005. In December 2006, negotiations failed again and both foundations arranged for closer cooperation instead of unification.
Since 2006, an extensive process of evaluation of cultural funding began in the field of cultural policy on all levels.
The 2007 final report of the Commission of Enquiry "Culture in Germany", set up by the German Bundestag, resulted in many debates about cultural policy at the federal level in subsequent years. Eleven members of the Bundestag and eleven experts in cultural policy had produced a comprehensive report, which runs to more than 500 pages, based on numerous expert reports, opinions and hearings (Deutscher Bundestag Press 16/7000, available under: http://dip21.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/16/070/1607000.pdf). Along with a status description of the arts, of support for culture and of the position of artists in Germany, the report contains over 400 recommendations for improving cultural support and the legal framework for the various cultural fields and the various stakeholders in cultural policy.
Since 1998, the Federal Government has launched legal reforms in the area of Foundation Law (especially with regard to taxation), Copyright Law and the Law Governing Social Insurance for Artists. In summer and autumn 2006, a Draft Bill for New Regulations on Copyright Law, submitted by the Federal Government, caused a great deal of debate with respect to payments to artists. It has enacted legislation to safeguard the system of fixed book prices and has extended support to the film sector under the Federal Film Promotion Act. In 2006, the Federal Government agreed on a new measure of support for the film industry, providing 60 Million EUR per annum; this will come into effect at the beginning of 2007. In November 2008, the German Bundestag ratified the amendment to the Film Support Act (see chapter 5.3.6).
The Federal Government has broadened the scope of support for: research on German culture and history in Eastern and Central Europe under section 96 of the Federal Expellees Act (see chapter 5.3.8) and; memorials commemorating the victims of dictatorship.
In 2009 and 2010 the public debate on Copyright Law enlarged and intensified due to the new possibilities of digital production and reproduction not only in music. A flat rate on culture was debated, but rejected by the parties of the governing coalition.
Recently, in some Länder specific acts on libraries came into force, in September 2008 in Thuringia and two years later in Hessen. The discussion about those and acts on supporting culture also reached the parliaments of some other Länder (see also chapter 5.3.2 and chapter 5.3.4).
Repatriation of unlawfully seized cultural assets
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, international discussions concerning the repatriation of cultural assets unlawfully seized from their rightful owners during World War II have led to the return of individual objects of art. The Federal Government, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs, in consultation with the Länder, is negotiating the return of specific items from neighbouring countries. In July 2003, an advisory commission was set up concerning the return of cultural assets, especially Jewish property that had been seized from their rightful owners during the National Socialist Era. Its task is to mediate restitution claims, especially in difficult cases. Its members are renowned scientists and prominent personalities. Since autumn 2006, a far-reaching debate on the restitution of works of art began, prompted by the return of a famous painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner by the government of Berlin to the heirs of the former owner, since it was claimed that the latter had been forced to sell it in the 1930s. Subsequently, a number of similar files became public. Museums are intensifying the research on the provenance of their works of art (Provenienzforschung) and have been supported by special funds. At the beginning of 2008, an office for provenance investigation and research at the Institute for Museum Research (Institut für Museumsforschung) of the Foundation for Prussian Cultural Heritage (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz) was set up at the federal level; its budget amounts to one million EUR per year and its mission is to support museums in their research into art stolen under National Socialism.
UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions
The process to develop a UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions as an international legal instrument has been supported by the German Commission for UNESCO with active support from civil society actors, the German Bundestag and the Federal Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs. The initiative was paramount in raising awareness of the inherent dangers to public support for culture which could arise from WTO international trade agreements (e. g. GATS) or the EU Services Directive. The Federal Government of Germany signed the convention in September 2006. The German Parliament passed the convention on 1 February 2007.
In order to formulate the German position on this UNESCO Convention, together with civil society, the German Commission for UNESCO founded a nationwide Coalition for Cultural Diversity ("Bundesweite Koalition Kulturelle Vielfalt") at the beginning of 2004. From June 2004 to May 2010, eight meetings of Coalition for Cultural Diversity took place. This expert group first discussed the draft Convention from a German perspective and, following its ratification, addressed the implementation of the Convention into German cultural policy as well as the establishment of indicators for the ongoing monitoring of this process. A White Paper with recommendations for cultural policy in Germany and in Europe for the implementation of the Convention, produced by the Coalition for Cultural Diversity, was published in December 2009. Good practice examples of instruments of implementation from around the world are presented in a publication "Mapping Cultural Diversity", within the framework of the U40-programme of "Cultural Diversity 2030", edited by the Commission of UNESCO in Germany and the Asia Europe Foundation.
Constitutional protection for culture
Growing problems of funding public cultural institutions have led to initiatives and discussions calling for more legal protection on the maintenance of cultural infrastructure and on "basic cultural needs". The introduction of a specific clause into the German Grundgesetz (constitution) which obliges the state to support culture has also frequently been demanded by different advocacy bodies, which was seconded by the Commission of Enquiry of the Deutscher Bundestag (Parliament) in its 2007 final report. During and after the parliamentary elections of autumn 2009, this demand was repeatedly discussed but has still not been honoured.
In October 2008, the majority of the regions in the Bundesrat (Länder chamber of the Parliament) had already rejected the application of Berlin for a new Article 20b in the German Grundgesetz, which called for the inclusion of the following statement: "The state protects and supports culture".
In the past centuries, public involvement in cultural life was fuelled by civic initiatives in specific disciplines, institutions and projects; such initiatives were particularly strong in those cities that were not residencies of the ruling nobility which had founded their own cultural institutions. Stifled during the National Socialist era and submerged in the decades thereafter, this civic commitment has meanwhile resurfaced, manifesting itself in an increase in, for example, membership to friends'-of-societies, volunteer work, endowments and sponsorship / co-financing. There are also a growing number of cultural activities and institutions that are supported by different kinds of civic initiatives. Cultural policy makers, who have long thought solely in terms of state financing, as well as specialists in the field and the general public, are now adapting to this development. Following on from the work of the Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry on Civic Commitment, in the legislative period ending 2005, a Committee on Civic Commitment was established in the newly elected German Bundestag (Parliament). In July 2007, the Bundestag passed a Law on the Stabilisation of Civic Commitment, which raised tax free allowances for training supervisors to 2 100 EUR and donations were raised uniformly to 20% of the income. In spring 2009 a nationwide Forum for Commitment and Participation was set up by the National Network of Civil Society (Bundesnetzwerk Bürgerschaftliches Engagement) with the support of the Federal Ministry for Families, Seniors, Women and Youth. It aims to work out a political agenda on civic commitment and to assist the federal government in establishing a national strategy on civic commitment. In October 2010 this national strategy on civic commitment and action programme on corporate social responsibility was adopted by the Cabinet of the federal government. Its intention is mainly to improve coordination of the activities of the different levels and stakeholders to support civic commitment as well as the integration of the commitment of commercial enterprise in the sense of corporate social responsibility.
Responding to a cultural public with increasingly diversifying needs
The members of the culturally interested public are less and less inclined to embrace a narrow approach to culture expressed through specific institutions, their programmes and events. Their receptiveness to and desire for participation in cultural activities vary widely and are highly individualised. As a result, urban cultural institutions, projects and events have multiplied and diversified to a hitherto unheard-of degree in the past two decades. Due to its relatively narrow focus of support – especially in times marked by financial constraints – Länder and municipal cultural policy has been unable to react in a sufficiently flexible manner. Therefore, more demand-driven approaches to state and municipal support to culture have been proposed.
Migrants, cultural diversity, intercultural co-operation
The high number of ethnic groups – whose members in some cases constitute up to 30 % of the population in mainly western German cities – has long been acknowledged. Numerous associations for members of different ethnic groups have emerged in urban areas; over 200 during the past ten years in Hamburg alone. Acting on their own initiative, these associations work to further intercultural understanding and co-operation. In many cities there are funding programmes to support and encourage their efforts. This type of cultural work, which has long been practised at the local level, was long time unknown at the Federal and Land levels. Meanwhile, the debate on multiculturalism and the related challenges to cultural policy continued, involving many cultural policy participants at each level. In the interest of national cultural cohesion, efforts to further intercultural understanding will be one of the most important aspects of cultural policy at all levels of government in the years to come (see chapter 3.3, chapter 2.3, chapter 4.2.4 and chapter 4.2.5).
Outsourcing public sector tasks
In the context of the international "new public management approaches" and the ever greater financial constraints at all levels, efforts have been stepped up to modernise policy administration systems and the structure of cultural institutions. The aims have been to increase efficiency, enhance transparency and proximity to the citizen, reorient services and redefine objectives. To this end, for instance, some public institutions have been privatised, benchmarking procedures tested, and public-sector tasks delegated or outsourced to third parties. Private commercial and voluntary non-profit organisations have been more widely acknowledged as partners of the public sector in the field of cultural policy. Cooperative arrangements and private-public partnerships are being encouraged and civic commitment accorded a more prominent role. In recent years, this reform process has slowed down. Some Länder have even revoked certain reforms, for example, the Land Lower Saxony cancelled the outsourcing of support to socio-cultural projects to a non-government organisation in 2005.