3.2 Overall description of the system
Overall responsibility for policy in the fields of cultural heritage and the arts lies with the Ministry of Culture. Sport is also under the Ministry's jurisdiction, supervised by a separate Undersecretary for Sport.
On constitutional grounds, the Greek Parliament has a key role in cultural affairs, notably, passing legislation on issues pertaining to cultural heritage and the arts, which are introduced by the Minister of Culture. In addition, its Standing Committee for Culture and Education has an important role in supervising the implementation of policies and programmes of the Ministry of Culture and its agencies; issues relevant to foreign cultural policy, on the other hand, are addressed via the Standing Committee on Greeks Abroad or the External Affairs Standing Committee of Parliament.
Several ministries and government departments play a key role in the development and implementation of policies and programmes for culture, the arts and media including:
The Ministry of Culture consists of four General Directorates: Antiquities and Cultural Heritage; Restoration, Museums and Technical Works; Contemporary Culture; and, Administrative Support (which includes the Directorates of European Union and of International Relations). Together they have collective responsibility for the:
The Ministry of Culture is assisted in the preparation, planning, funding, control and / or implementation of policy by consultative bodies, such as the National Commission of Museums, and by arms-length agencies, such as the National Book Centre, the Greek Cinema Centre, the Fund of Credits Management for Archaeological Work, the Hellenic Culture Organisation SA, the Hellenic Intellectual Property Organisation, and the newly founded Centre for Theatre and Dance. The membership of these consultative bodies and the governing bodies of arms-length organisations are appointed by the Minister of Culture, with only some positions filled by ex officio representatives from the sector (different to the British or Nordic models of arms-length). Some of these bodies enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy from political power, mainly on account of the status of their chairperson and board members.
The Ministry has set up special departments responsible for cultural heritage protection: the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, the Ephorate of Private Collections, the Service for the Restoration of the Acropolis Monuments. In addition, a number of archaeological museums were given special regional service status (National Archaeological; Epigraphical; Numismatic; Byzantine; Archaeological Museum of Heraklion; Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki; Museum of Byzantine Culture of Thessaloniki). In addition, several regional services of the Ministry of Culture are responsible for the on-site implementation of policies on the protection, preservation and valorisation of archaeological heritage, namely, 25 Ephorates of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, 14 Ephorates of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Antiquities, and 8 Ephorates of Contemporary and Modern Monuments.
Several major public museums and galleries operate at arms-length from the Ministry despite being almost fully dependent on central government funding. These include: the National Gallery-Alexandros Soutzos Museum; and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens; and the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki. Some not-for-profit foundations or associations, such as the Benaki Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Macedonian Centre of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, and the Foundation of the Hellenic World, play an important complementary role.
The Ministry of Culture provides support for regional cultural development and the arts via its arms-length sector bodies. Many regional theatre organisations, municipal cinemas, cultural centres and other similar organisations are co-funded by the Ministry of Culture, and operate under the long-term programme agreements between the municipalities and the Ministry. As a rule, such organisations operate as agencies of local government, under its effective administrative control. However, a large number of independent folk art, ethnographic, applied arts or local history museums are financially supported by the Ministry of Culture.
Current policies are based on an attempt to re-adjust the balance between the national and local-regional level, mostly on the basis of nationwide sectoral initiatives in the arts and cultural heritage. The focus of recent policy intervention as regards the governance of culture is in mobilising established figures from the field of the arts to lead cultural institutions and initiatives, and in increasing the reliance of the Ministry of Culture on quasi-foundation status, arms-length organisations or consultative bodies for the elaboration and implementation of sectoral policies.