Large cultural buildings planned for Riga have been cancelled but Riga Congress Centre will be reconstructed for Riga 2014.
4.3 Other relevant issues and debates
In recent years there was a very intense debate in Latvian society about the major Cultural Buildings Project called Jaunie trÄ«s brÄÄ¼i (The New Three Brothers, as a reference to the "old" Three Brothers - a grouping of three houses from the 15th-18th centuries in the old town of Riga). Three construction projects were envisaged: building a new National Library (http://www.gaismaspils.lv), Contemporary Art Museum (http://www.camriga.lv/) and Concert Hall in Riga. Due to the economic crisis, the Ministry of Culture has cancelled the plan to build a concert hall although Riga City Council is trying to find a solution accommodating a technically appropriate concert hall before Riga becomes European Capital of Culture in 2014. For this purpose it is planned to reconstruct Riga Congress Centre Riga Congress Centre. Also, the project of building a Contemporary Art Museum has been cancelled. Still, the Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with private sponsors, and with support of EEA and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism, is developing a museum holding that, starting from 2010, is stored at the Latvian National Museum of Art.
The construction of the National Library was started in 2008. The project has overcome long lasting public and political debates that have finally resulted in the undertaking that is going to be launched at the end of 2012 and will be opened to the public at the end of 2013. The originally planned investment of 114.6 million LVL (around 163.7 million EUR) has been reduced due to the deflation. Gunnar Birkerts, who is the most famous architect of Latvian origin in the world, named the project Castle of Light.
The current economic crisis has brought about new concerns and protests. In recent years, public support for the construction of the National Library has been decreasing. However, the Ministry of Culture has stated that the implementation of the project of Latvian National Library is economically grounded both in the short and long-term.
In 2011, the cost of constructing the Latvian National Library reached 32.6% of the total budget of the Ministry of Culture.
Another debate concerns the building of regional cultural centres and concert halls. The European Regional Development Fund will invest 14 890 142 LVL, while municipalities will have to secure co-financing in the amount of 2 627 672 LVL. Out of four cities where it was planned to build these centres, only three, CÄ“sis, LiepÄja and RÄ“zekne are going to benefit from the investment programme.
At the end of 2008, regional reform finally was adopted by the Parliament. Previously, Latvia had numerous small municipalities operating on two territorial levels of local administration. The aim of the reform that started in 1992 was to reduce the number of administrative levels, and to increase the capacity of the local administrative units.
Following the reform, starting from 1 July 2009, there are 109 amalgamated municipalities and 9 national-scale cities instead of more than 500 administrative units.
The decentralisation of culture is taking place hastily due to the economic crisis. The Ministry of Culture is significantly reducing its responsibilities and support on the regional level. The reduction of subsidies concerns amateur art, which was previously co-financed by the Ministry of Culture, art education schools, and professional theatres in Daugavpils and LiepÄja (see also chapter 3.2, chapter 4.2.1 and chapter 4.2.8).
European Cultural Capital 2014
Four cities – RÄ«ga, JÅ«rmala, CÄ“sis and LiepÄja – applied for the competition to become European Cultural Capital 2014. The international jury made its decision at the end of 2009, choosing Riga to be European Cultural Capital (see http://www.kultrix.lv/).
Sustainable Development Strategy for Latvia
A debate on the Sustainable Development Strategy for Latvia (http://www.latvija2030.lv) was initiated by a working group headed by Asoc. Prof. Roberts Ä¶Ä«lis under the auspices of the Ministry of Regional Development and Local Government. To elaborate a document on the Development Strategy for Latvia up to 2030, a broad debate involving inhabitants took place both on the national and regional levels. The Ministry of Culture and cultural NGOs proposed to include a chapter on culture that was followed by discussion among cultural operators.
The final document was adopted by the Parliament (2010) and it is going to be the main long-term policy document (see chapter 4.2.8).
Involvement of citizens
The economic crisis has stimulated consolidation and involvement of citizens in public policy development. Also, cultural operators have established several umbrella organisations, such as the association Time for Culture (2010), of 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).
Despite the economic crisis and reduction of public funding, new initiatives have emerged. Numerous non-commercial initiatives have been established, moreover the development of creative industry undertakings are supported by several projects, such as Duka and Brigade. Duka is an initiative of Riga City Council addressing the issue of empty commercial properties in the Latvian capital and promoting entrepreneurship at the same time. It offers empty commercial space to entrepreneurs at no charge except the cost for utilities such as water and electricity. Thanks to cheaper rent opportunities, several streets in Riga are changing their profile: expensive shops and offices are being replaced by artisan shops, artists' initiatives and cosy cafés (see chapter 4.2.3) relating to the project Brigade and creative quarters.
Although, there is no precise data, during the last years, there was a boom of lectures and diverse life-long education offers by art and culture institutions. Also, other free cultural offers have become a common type of culture consumption (see chapter 8.2.1).
For more information on reforms in the cultural education system see chapter 8.3.1.