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The National Development Plan of Latvia for 2014-2020 includes the development of creative territories and cultural services.


As part of the Structural Funds period 2014-2020 Latvia hopes to invest in cultural infrastructure, creative industries and cultural heritage.

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Latvia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.8 Social cohesion and cultural policies

There is no articulated social cohesion policy in Latvia however the main planning documents address the issues of social cohesion.

In recent years, immigration is not at a significant level, yet increasing in recent years  (4011 persons in 2010, 10 234 persons in 2011, and 13 303 persons in 2012 according to the data of The Central Statistical Bureau), thus social cohesion issues are directed more at the social stratification and social inequality of the permanent residents (both citizens and non-citizens), development of the regions, especially in the context of centralisation of inhabitants, business, entertainment and other activities in the capital (32% of the resident population lives in the city of Riga; 50% resides in the Riga region and its neighbourhood (Pieriga region), source: Central Statistical Bureau of the Republic of Latvia, 2011). 76 towns and cities constitute the urban network of Latvia, hosting about two thirds of the country's population at the beginning of 2012. Altogether, the data indicate significant disparities in the level of development and positive movement between the large urban centres and the remaining towns in Latvia, as well as their impact on the develop­ment of the surrounding areas (survey "Development of Regions in Latvia 2011", available as pdf in English).

Disparities in the quality of life, as well as the quality and quantity of the economic and social infrastructure in large cities, their vicinities and in other territories of the county, considerably increase. Authors of the study on urban and rural interaction have found a correlation between the size of the city and its neighbourhood: the larger the city in terms of its population and economic potential, the larger the surrounding area it influences and its impact on the surrounding rural territory and other towns that are smaller in terms of their population and economic variety is more diverse (the study "Assessment of the Mutual Interaction of the Urban and Rural Territories of Latvia" , available in Latvian, 2009).

The territorial reform completed in 2009 changed the administrative division, consolidating small rural local municipalities in larger territorial administrative units – counties (see  chapter 3.2).

Policy documents and social cohesion

The purpose of Regional Development Law from 2002 is to promote and ensure balanced and sustainable development of the state, taking into account special features and opportunities of the entire state territory and of separate parts thereof, to reduce the unfavourable differences among them, as well as to preserve and develop the features characteristic of the natural and cultural environment of each territory and the development potential thereof.

The Sustainable Development Strategy of Latvia until 2030 (Latvia 2030, available also in English) maps out the spatial development perspective, setting as one of the objectives to create equal life and work conditions for all inhabitants regardless of the place of residence by facilitating entrepreneurship in regions, developing transport and communications infrastructure and public services.

The National Development Plan of Latvia for 2014-2020 includes a priority "Growth for Regions" aiming to create preconditions for sustainable and balanced economic development in the cities and regions of Latvia and to provide for the smart and efficient management of the available resources, the use of opportunities for territorial development and the minimisation of threats. The priority includes also the strategic objective of "Sustainable Management of Natural and Cultural Capital" and proposes the definition of a "basket of services" that contains the prospective assortment of public services (including cultural services) based on the level of settlement (infrastructure and services). The new planning document in the field of culture Creative Latvia 2014-2020 is harmonised with the priorities of the National Development Plan of Latvia 2014-2020 and The Sustainable Development Strategy of Latvia until 2030. As one of four priorities it promotes the development of creative territories and accessibility of cultural services.

EU Structural funds

Social cohesion as a topic, in recent years, was introduced in the context of the EU Structural Funds (funding, priorities, application process etc.). In the regional policy of the EU, Latvia is perceived as a single region, and one of the horizontal strategic aims is to use the support of the EU structural funds to reduce disadvantages among different territorial parts. Although the priorities of the Cohesion Fund are transport and the environment, other EU Structural Funds address many social cohesion issues. A study of how EU funds and the Cohesion Fund impact on Latvia's macroeconomics shows that the total contribution of the EU funds in 2004–2006 for the development of the national economy was very positive, ensuring stable and significant GDP growth. Initially – in 2004 and 2005 – this impact was comparatively small, but in 2006 and 2007 it amounted to almost 3% of GDP. See more on the impact of EU funds on the economy of Latvia in a study Evaluation of the impact of EU funds on the economy of Latvia (Stockholm School of Economic in Riga, 2011, available in English).

The study on The implication of culture in the national economy and the use of EU structural funds for cultural needs (Baltic Project Consulting, 2006, available in Latvian) shows that, in the 2004-2006 programming period, the total available support under the Structural Funds for the sector was 15.5 million LVL (approx. 22.1 million EUR), which is equivalent to almost 17% from the available state budget. Hence, the funding available for culture under the structural funds regime is significant for the development of the sector, although it will not have a significant impact on the macroeconomic indicators of Latvia. The authors of the Study on the contribution of culture to local and regional development – Evidence from the Structural Funds (CSES, ERICarts, 2010) indicate that in Latvia 1% of the allocated funding of the European Regional Development Fund has been dedicated to culture.

The Ministry of Culture has taken an active role in seizing opportunities offered for culture by the EU Structural funds. A Report on opportunities offered by the EU Structural Funds for culture 2007-2013 has been carried out.

Digitalisation projects (see chapter 4.2.11) in the field of culture, many of them supported by EU Structural funds, have substantially contributed to social cohesion. One example is the digitalisation projects of public libraries all over Latvia which have offered more opportunities to local inhabitants (public access to the internet, major databases, Latvian films online etc.).

For the planning period 2007-2013, the cultural sector had several options to apply for EU structural funds (total available funding for culture is 38.7 million EUR). Support went to the reconstruction or building of multifunctional cultural centres in the regions, for the renovation of objects of important cultural and historical heritage and for the assistance to private owners of cultural monuments in monument conservation and in the effective use of their socio-economic potential.

For the new planning period 2014-2020, it is planned to invest in cultural infrastructure, creative industries and cultural heritage.

Cultural activities and development in the regions

Several studies show that Riga hosts the majority of cultural activities and initiatives.

The study Socio-economic Development Tendencies of Latvian Cities (commissioned by The State Regional Development Agency and carried out by the Laboratory of Analytic and Strategic Studies, 2008) comprised 38 cities in Latvia, analysing the potential growth of the cities, their competitiveness and poly-centric development possibilities. According to the study, Riga is the largest development centre in the country with the highest index of creativity. It is a creative metropolis, measured by taking into account the concentration of talent and technology. The recent study on creative industries in Latvia states that only about 1/4 of creative industries and 1/3 of related industries are situated in the regions. Although in the last four years (2008-2011) the fastest increase in the number of creative industries enterprises was observed in Latvia's regions Pieriga and Latgale, though it did not have a significant positive impact on the number of employees and turnover of the sector in total. More than 80% of the total turnover of creative industries is provided by enterprises in Riga, and in related industries enterprises in Riga make about 70% of the turnover. Approximately 60% of creative industries added value is provided by enterprises in Riga. The rest of each Latvian region creates around 10% of the total added value of creative industries and related industries. (The Performance of the Creative Industries Sector of Latvia and Preconditions for its Targeted Development, 2013, see; see also chapter 4.2.3).

Regional development can be also measured by the number of associations of citizens. The study Fostering cultural diversity and governance: non-governmental and private cultural initiatives (Institute of Social and Political Studies, University of Latvia, commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Latvia, 2008) reveals that, on average, there are 1.4 cultural associations of citizens in each rural municipality, while in Riga there are about 200. Approximately 29% of cities and rural municipalities host no cultural associations of citizens.

The availability of cultural activities in the regions was analysed in the study Accessibility of culture in the regions (Institute of Baltic Social Sciences, 2007) and Culture Consumption (see chapter 8.2.1). In comparison to the rest of the country, inhabitants of Riga are more active in attending professional cultural activities; the reasons given are as follows: there are more cultural and entertainment activities in Riga; inhabitants in the capital have higher income levels, and thus can afford to pay for cultural products) and higher education levels (have more interest in professional art). The study on cultural consumption in 2010 suggests that inhabitants of rural areas have lower cultural participation and consumption rates than those living in urban areas (Laboratory of Analytic and Strategic Studies, 2011).

The findings of the study on Culture Consumption (2008) show that a significant part of the Latvian population does not have access to cultural events in their neighbourhood. In 2007, about 69% of the respondents were satisfied with the choice of and access to cultural events, while in 2008 – only 60% responded positively. 40% of the respondents mentioned that the major obstacle was high prices; 19% considered the location and means to access it may be regarded as a barrier to attending cultural events.

Data from the Central Statistical Bureau about household expenditure clearly indicates that inhabitants of Riga spend more money on recreation and culture than inhabitants in other regions. In 2012, household members living in Riga spent 25.60 EUR per month on culture and recreation activities, while those living in the Pieriga region (neighbourhood of Riga) spent 19.25 EUR per month, while expenditure for those in the rest of the country was from 12.01 to 16.97 EUR per month.

In contrast to lower cultural consumption and spending for culture and recreation in the regions, participation in cultural activities and amateur art is higher in rural areas than in the cities. In the cities, 1.5% of the total number of inhabitants participated in amateur art groups in cultural centres, while in towns it was 4.9% and in the countryside – 4%.

Support to cultural initiatives in the regions

1) Since 2006, there are support programmes for each of the 4 regions. Since 2007, the money has been allocated by the State Culture Capital Foundation to regional representatives that announce a local open call. So the decision-making and distribution of money have been decentralised. The funding in 2011 varied from 21 400 LVL (30 570 EUR) to 32 100 LVL (45 860 EUR) per region.

2) The Ministry of Culture has signed agreements with several city councils concerning the distribution of professional arts activities in the regions.

3) The annual contracts between the Ministry of Culture and state art institutions (theatres, orchestras) stipulate a certain share of performances that has to be presented outside permanent venues of the institutions.

4) Other initiatives: since 2011, the National Film Centre has supported projects of film distribution in the regions (annual funding in 2011 and 2012: 10 213 LVL (14 590 EUR)).

5) Since 2012, the State Culture Capital Foundation has established a funding programme that supports distribution of professional art events in the regions.

Main actors in the field

Chapter published: 17-07-2018

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