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Latvia/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

The institutions that set the general policy guidelines, legislation and budget of the Republic of Latvia are: the Saeima (Parliament, 100 members voted every four years) and the Cabinet of Ministers (highest executive body of the country, formed by a Prime Minister invited by the State President). In 2014, there were 13 Ministries and 13 Ministers respectively in Latvia. As a result of reorganisation, one ministry in 2011 has been closed down: the functions of the Ministry of Regional Development and Local Government have been taken over by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Welfare. 

According to its Constitution (Satversme) Latvia is a unitary state, made up of 4 regions (Vidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme and Zemgale), which are prescribed by international treaties and are not administrative territories. Therefore, in Latvia there is no administrative division similar to federal states in the EU.

Local governments

At the end of 2008 the regional reform was adopted finally by the Parliament. Previously, Latvia had numerous small municipalities operating on two territorial levels of local administration. In 2008 there were 525 local governments operating at local or first territorial level (including 52 towns and 7 cities; 36 amalgamated local municipalities; 430 parishes), and 26 counties operating at regional or second territorial level. The aim of the reform that started 1992 was to reduce the number of administrative levels and to increase the capacity of local administrative units.

Since 1 July 2009 there are 109 local governments (counties) and 9 republican cities, instead of more than 500 administrative units.

The reform was carried out based on the Administrative-Territorial Reform Law (1998, significant amendments in 2005).

According to the Regional Development Law (2002) 5 administrative units, one per each of 5 Planning regions, have been established. The Planning regions will ensure the planning and co-ordination of regional development and co-operation between local government and other state administrative institutions. The Planning regions have taken over the coordination functions in the field of culture, thus substituting 28 regional cultural experts previously employed by the Ministry of Culture and executing the task of state cultural policy planning on a regional level. In this respect the Ministry of Culture is collaborating with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development. For more on the reform see the presentation "History and Progress of Administrative-Territorial Reform in Latvia".

The Law on Local Governments (1994) defines the division of labour and responsibilities between the state and local authorities in providing services, including those in the cultural field. Section 15 of the Law on Local Governments defines the autonomous functions of local governments including the following: "to maintain culture and facilitate the preservation of traditional cultural values and the development of creative folk activity (organisational and financial assistance to cultural institutions and events, support for the preservation of cultural monuments, and others)".

Decentralisation in the field of culture is connected to the long and complicated process of regional administrative reform that was completed in 2009. Step by step, municipalities are developing their own cultural policies and are becoming more independent regarding the content and character of cultural life in the regions.

Ministry of Culture

The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia is responsible for strategic development, implementation and supervision of cultural policy and cultural education policy. The Ministry co-operates with municipalities and with non-governmental bodies, such as consultative councils, creative unions, funds etc. The Ministry of Culture and municipalities share responsibility for co-operation programmes and financing in the cultural field in Latvia. It is the Ministry of Culture that plays the most important role in the development of cultural policy and financing cultural activities, particularly professional art.

According to the statutes of the Ministry of Culture, it has responsibility for the following sectors: copyright, architecture, libraries, museums, music, fine art, folk art, theatre, literature and books, film arts, cultural education, and the protection of monuments and archives. Since 2011, the Ministry of Culture is responsible for integration and for the Social Integration Foundation. The Ministry of Culture is also responsible for the operation of institutions and organisations in each of the respective sectors. See also chapter 2.1 concerning the Ministry of Culture and

Councils and Advisory boards

The National Board of Culture, established in 1995, is the most important advisory body to the Minister of Culture in the fields of cultural policy and cultural economy. Its main tasks are to promote public participation in cultural life and to enhance co-operation between the state, public institutions and individuals. Its functions are to analyse and make proposals regarding the strategic direction of some cultural sectors, to participate in the preparation of the cultural budget, draft plans for laws and investment policies.

In relation to policy making and implementation, the Ministry of Culture must consult with non-governmental organisations to further social dialogue and has to involve society members in the state administration. It carries out this role via boards and working groups; the boards have consultative functions and the working groups are created to solve specific tasks during the specified period of time.

Advisory councils to the Ministry of Culture include the Council of Literature and Publishing (2003); Latvian Music Council (2002); National Council of Theatres (2000); Latvian Film Council (2004); Visual Arts Council (2001); National Council of Museums (1998); National Library Council (1998); National Architecture Council (2009); the Consultative Council for Creative Industries (2011; re-established in 2014), and the Council of Archives (2011). The Ministry of Economics established the Design Council in 2008 which currently operates at the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture is consulting with the associations of cultural operators on a regular basis. This dialogue intensified during the period of the economic crisis, and since then cultural operators have established several umbrella organisations, e.g. the association Time for Culture (2010) for major public cultural institutions, the Association of Contemporary Culture NGOs (2007) and the Alliance of the Association of Contemporary Arts NGOs and The Council of the Creative Unions of Latvia (2009). In 2012, these three associations signed a Memorandum with the Ministry of Culture about regular cooperation in cultural policy development and monitoring. This initiative is a unique model of direct participation by the non-governmental sector in public cultural policy development. Meetings with the Minister take place on a regular basis, usually once per week.

Policy documents

According to the state policy planning system, the main long-term policy document is the Sustainable Development Strategy of Latvia (endorsed by the Parliament in 2010; downloads in English and Russian here, see also chapter 4.2.8).

The main medium-term policy document is the National Development Plan 2014-2020 adopted by the Parliament in 2012. At the moment all high level policy planning documents in Latvia include essential paragraphs on culture.

Mid-term policy documents in different sub-sectors are subordinated and harmonised with the above mentioned policy documents. The Cultural Policy Guidelines 2014-2020 "Creative Latvia" was adopted by the government in 2014. Some issues in this document are interlinked with policies in other sectors, like the National Policy Guidelines of Identity, Civil Society and Integration (2012-2018) (adopted in 2011, available in Latvian), Guidelines on Industrial Policy 2014-2020 (adopted in 2013, available in Latvian), Guidelines on Regional Policy (adopted in 2013, available in Latvian), and Guidelines on Education Policy 2014-2020 (due to be adopted in 2014).

The most important political guidelines are included in the Declaration of the Intended Activities of the Cabinet of Ministers for the governance period of the respective government.

During recent years several cities have developed mid-term cultural strategies. Although the major cultural responsibility of the cities is amateur art, the cultural strategies of the cities stress that art and culture stand for more than amateur choirs and folk dances and could be used as a critical strategy for regional development.

Chapter published: 17-07-2018

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