COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
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Malta/ 1. Historical perspective: cultural policies and instruments  

Author: Anthony Attard

 Cultural activity in Malta has been shaped by political, ecclesiastical, educational or family privilege and influence. Throughout the centuries, the country was occupied by a succession of foreign powers, with one of the results being a struggle for the diffusion of culture and traditions, including a battle over the question of the Maltese language. For example, in the first half of the 1900s, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura and the British Institute became antagonists, meshed in a cultural battle for political influence and control. The Italian lobby campaigned for the Italian language to be adopted by the cultured elite, including the professional class, and for it to be used in all official documents and legal codes, including the Constitution. On the other side, British colonial authorities supported the use of Maltese to counteract the Italian influence and backed up Maltese writers who played a key role in the fight for the Maltese culture and language. World War II secured Malta's alliance with the British against the Italian-German axis.

A massive cultural renewal in the 1960s was led by a new generation of writers and intellectuals and had significant effects in the fields of literature, theatre, the visual arts and music. Malta's traditional hierarchical models were challenged and classical and romantic approaches were abandoned. Cultural objectives were being articulated by the young intellectuals and taken up for debate in the media. There was also a significant shift towards local production on television and radio. As there was still no official cultural policy at the beginning of the 1960s, responsibility for culture formed part of the portfolios of various Ministers, including those responsible for Education, Foreign Affairs and Justice.

Malta's proclamation of political independence from Britain in 1964 heralded in new concepts for the democratisation of culture, mirroring developments in other countries. In 1965, Malta became a member of the Council of Europe, at a time when the country started to diversify its economy from a military to a service and a market-oriented model. Within such a context, cultural heritage emerged as a crucially important asset. Cultural policy finally gained its own profile when a Minister for Education, Culture and Tourism was appointed after the first elections in 1966.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the two main political parties, the Nationalist Party (NP) and the Malta Labour Party (MLP), began including cultural policy in their electoral programmes. In 1971, the NP pledged to support culture through the creation of an Arts Council. In 1976, they promised to recognise artists and intellectuals as catalysts in the life of the nation. The NP also promised to "extend facilities to the whole people" and to "intensify cultural exchange with other countries". The pledge to construct a National Arts Council was made again in the NP electoral manifestos of 1987, 1992 and 1996 and the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts (MCCA) was actually created in 2002, after an Act of Parliament. In the 1990s, it became the declared policy of the Nationalist Party to review culture "not as the privilege of an elite few, but as the dynamic heritage of the whole people."

The Malta Labour Party also articulated its cultural objectives pointedly in the early seventies and appointed a Minister for Education and Culture in 1971 when it assumed power. In its 1976 electoral programme, the MLP dedicated a whole chapter (IV) to "the intellectual and moral aspect of culture to combat materialism". Linking education and culture inextricably, the party also declared that culture should be an instrument to accelerate the socio-economic needs of the Maltese islands. At the beginning of the 1980s, the MLP emphasised culture as a source of identity and stressed the "democratisation of culture and the arts". In the 1990s, the Labour programme stressed the promotion of culture among children and young people, the role of the media in promoting authentic cultural values and the role of culture to promote Malta's international image, especially within a Mediterranean framework.

In 1993, the Ministry responsible for culture (under a Nationalist Party government) commissioned the first comprehensive survey relating to cultural activity in Malta which resulted in the publication, "A Cultural Assessment of the Nation". This report endorsed the fact that cultural trends are mainly influenced by the media in its multiple forms and that traditional entertainment (e.g. village bands, folk festivals) remains active and important. It also emphasised the active role of NGOs in traditional cultural activities.

In 2001, the Ministry of Education, which at the time had Culture and the Arts as part of its portfolio, published a public consultation document to establish a cultural policy for Malta. A delegation from the Council of Europe visited Malta in June 2002 to assess the discussion document and suggest strategies for its implementation. The experts' report, written by Professor Anthony Everitt (UK), was subsequently submitted to the plenary session of the Cultural Committee in Strasbourg in September 2002. Unfortunately, even though the document was regarded as a unique opportunity to address the future of cultural affairs in Malta, the draft document was never finalised into a final policy document. Notwithstanding the lack of formal or legal adoption of the policy, a number of recommendations in the report were implemented in the following years. Namely, the legal framework to establish the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts (MCCA), (Chapter 444, Act 8), (http://www.maltaculture.com/filebank/docs/chapter444.pdf), the Cultural Heritage Act 2002 and the creation of the National Book Council.

These legal frameworks were also necessary to address Malta's commitment as a member of the European Union to promote and protect the cultural heritage of the country whilst fostering and developing its creative identity and cooperation.

With its accession in the European Union on the 1st of May 2004, Malta enhanced its strategic position in an enlarged Europe and confirmed its commitment towards the economic and political development of the European Union. This also meant that Malta had to contribute to the successful ratification of European Union treaties and agendas. Therefore, Malta's commitment towards the freedom of creative expression, the fundamental right to access culture and the celebration and preservation of the cultural diversity of its citizens as outlined in the Treaty of Maastricht is encouraging further political investment in culture. Underpinning this commitment lays the freedom of movement for the professionals in the cultural sector, freedom of establishment, and free movement of goods and services within the European Union.

European accession also meant that Malta could capitalise upon European initiatives such as the Culture and Media programmes. EU educational programmes, under the remit of the European Union Programmes Agency, are also offering schools, NGOs and Foundations new opportunities for cultural funding, development and cooperation. These programmes together with other funding programmes such as the European Structural Funds, Interreg programmes and European Regional Development Funds and the agenda set through the EU communication on Culture gave scope for government and perhaps added pressure to view culture as an important sector in the economic and social development of Malta.

In December 2006, the Ministry for Tourism and Culture published the first National Cultural Heritage Strategy following the enactment of the Cultural Heritage Act in 2002. The main objectives of the strategy are based on citizen participation, improved governance, development of cultural resources and sustainable use of heritage resources.

In January 2007, the same Ministry launched a Tourism Plan for the Maltese Islands and Malta's National Tourism Strategy. For the cultural sector, these documents outline policies though which the niche sector of cultural tourism is to be developed in the coming years.

An important milestone in the history of cultural affairs in Malta was set in 2007 with the inclusion of the creative industries in the government pre-budget document and the implementation of new budgetary measures for culture in the National Budget for 2008. The pre-budget document states that "cultural development needs to be at the heart of our nation – culture plays a fundamental role in human development, moulding our identity and acting as an indicator of a society's progress and advancement".

In the run-up to the General Elections in 2008, the Malta Labour Party, in opposition, also embraced culture as one of its political priorities through a document outlining a list of 36 recommendations for culture.

In March 2008, the Nationalist Party was re-elected with a relative majority. The portfolio of culture was once again removed from the Tourism Ministry and placed together with education, sport and youth into one Ministry. A Parliamentary Secretary was also appointed for Sport and Youth.

In 2008, the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport appointed a working group to draft Malta's national cultural policy. This was presented to the Cabinet of Ministers and launched for public consultation in 2010. The final cultural policy document was launched by the Prime Minister in July 2011.

The National Cultural Policy focuses on:

  • improved cultural governance structures;
  • international cultural cooperation;
  • the strengthening of the professional status of cultural workers;
  • articulation of the specific needs of the arts, heritage and audiovisual sectors;
  • development of the cultural rights, cultural socialisation and cultural inclusion; and
  • ensuring the long-term sustainability of the cultural sector.

In addition to the cultural values enshrined within the cultural policy, the government acknowledged that investment in the cultural sectors yields further economic and social development. In the budget speech for 2010, the Minister of Finance announced the government's ambition to incentivize the creative industries "consistently with the Vision 2015 to make Malta a centre of excellence in various sectors, including that of creativity." This led to a new set of incentives for the sector and the appointment of a working group for the creative industries to develop a national strategy for the sector.

In 2011, the government set an important milestone for the cultural and creative industries by committing, at a European level, to the strategic development of Heritage, Arts, Media and Creative Business Services towards achieving the objectives of the Euro Plus Pact. The commitment states that:  Malta is currently developing a national strategy for the cultural and creative industries. The strategy prioritises 4 pillars: education and professional development; route to market; internationalisation; and governance. In addition to this initiative, the 2011 Budget announced 7 new initiatives and programmes to address the immediate needs of the CCIs namely in the field of training and education, audience development and CCI financing mechanisms to leverage private investment. The aim of the strategy is consistent with the vision of Malta’s new cultural policy in transforming the cultural and creative sector into the most dynamic facet of Malta’s socio-economic life in the 21 century, with the first national milestone being the hosting of the European Capital of Culture in 2018.

In March 2013, the Labour Party led by Dr. Joseph Muscat was elected with an absolute majority. Dr Muscat took office as Malta's Prime Minister on 11 March 2013. The electoral manifesto of the new government, one of the strongest political programmes for culture in recent history, included a chapter on culture, arts and creativity.

Important cultural policy and governance related matters since 2000

Year Event

2000

Malta Crafts Council was set up by virtue of Malta Craft Council Act (XXI of 2000). The aims of the Council are focused on the encouragement, promotion and regulation of crafts and craftsmen and entrepreneurs dealing in Maltese craft products. Crafts forming part of Malta's historical heritage are given particular importance.

2001

Malta Book Council set up to promote books and book reading in the Maltese Islands.

2001/2002

Publication of a public consultation document to establish a cultural policy for Malta. A delegation from the Council of Europe visited Malta in June 2002 to assess the discussion document and suggest strategies for its implementation. The experts' report was subsequently submitted to the plenary session of the Cultural Committee in Strasbourg in September 2002.  The experts had summoned the Maltese Government to start implementing the cultural policy systematically.Following further consultation, based on the debate which had ensued after the publication of the first document by the Ministry and the European experts' review, Malta's cultural strategy was revised to include aspects related to prospects for the film industry, intellectual property and the music industry, including the production of rock music in Malta.  The revised version remained unpublished.

2002

Cultural Heritage Act (Chapter 444, Act 8). Creation of:-

  • Committee of Guarantee (has been set up in order to ensure and facilitate the collaboration between the different agencies that have direct or indirect responsibility for the protection and management of the cultural heritage sector. It is also responsible for advising the Government on the National Strategy for Cultural Heritage)
  • Cultural Heritage Fund (a body corporate with a separate legal personality, which receives and manages monies paid to it under the provisions of the Cultural Heritage Act, as well as other assets that may be donated by non-Governmental sources. These are used for research, conservation or restoration of cultural heritage. The Fund is administered by the Committee of Guarantee)
  • Heritage Malta  (the national agency for museums, conservation practice and cultural heritage which replaced the former Museums Department)
  • The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (to fulfil the duties of the State in ensuring the protection and accessibility of Malta’s cultural heritage);
  • Warranty Board for Restorers and Conservators.

2002

Malta Council for Culture and the Arts (MCCA) (replaced Dept of Culture – to promote all forms of creative expression and to increase accessibility of the public to the arts and enhance Malta’s cultural heritage); Set up by Chapter 444 Malta Council for Culture and the Arts Act

2003

Culture placed under Ministry for Youth and the Arts

2003

MCCA launched its first 3-Year Strategic Plan for the Arts, which saw the setting up of sixteen sub-committees to cater for and develop respective art-forms, including religious ritual. The MCCA had called a series of think-tank sessions but then all sub-committees were abolished for lack of initiative and complete inaction. The projects lined up for implementation by the MCCA during 2003 to 2006 never materialised. These involved several recommendations for projects as proposed by the original policy document of 2001, including the setting up of an Academy for the Performing Arts, a Carnival Village, a Museum of Maltese Contemporary Art and the development of an interactive Arts Village.

2004

Culture placed under Ministry for Tourism and Culture.

2005

Malta Film Commission established by CHAPTER 478 (Act No. 7 of 2005) of the Laws of Malta, consisting of an advisory body for the role of advising the Minister responsible for the film sector on policies pertaining to the promotion, development and support of the audiovisual and film servicing industry. The board is composed of a chairman and five board members, as well as the Film Commissioner who is responsible for the implementation of Malta’s audiovisual policy.

2005

Malta Media Desk was set up to promote the European Union’s Media Programme in Malta and to assist individuals who wish to benefit from this programme. Media Desk Malta is hosted and supported by the Culture and Audiovisual Unit within the Parliamentary Secretariat for Tourism, the Environment and Culture.

2005

The Maltese Parliament approved a new Archives Act (V, 2005) that came into force on 1 September 2005. This act created for the first time the post of National Archivist and it restructured the National Archives as a Government entity with a distinct legal personality.  

2005

Heritage Malta was given the added responsibility for the former Malta Centre for Restoration and thus became responsible also for the conservation of the national heritage.

2006

Ministry for Tourism and Culture published the first National Cultural Heritage Strategy.

2006

Government commissioned an external report in 2006, outlining the potential for the regeneration of a number of sites within the Grand Harbour and set up the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation plc. The overall project delivery will be maintained by MITC and will be enhanced by EU Cohesion funds for the development of the harbour’s infrastructure.A specific project highlighted by the report was that the Ricasoli Fort should be turned into a film centre.

2007

Ministry for Tourism and Culture launched a Tourism Plan for the Maltese Islands and Malta's National Tourism Strategy. For the cultural sector, these documents outline policies though which the niche sector of cultural tourism is to be developed in the coming years.

2007

Inclusion of the creative industries in the Government pre-budget document and the implementation of new budgetary measures for culture in the National Budget for 2008.

2007

St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity launched think-tank for culture called Valletta Creative Forum (VCF).

2007

Government formally announced the regeneration of the historic Fort St. Elmo site along with other projects in the Marsamxett Harbour. An ambitious target has been set to deliver urban renewal projects within this historic but important central port within the Maltese islands by 2015.  Ministry for Infrastructure, Transport and Communications (MITC) is the ministry responsible for this initiative.

2008

The portfolio of culture was once again removed from the Tourism Ministry and placed together with education, sport and youth into one Ministry.

2008

The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport appointed a working group to draft Malta's national cultural policy.

2008

A number of fiscal incentives were announced in the budget and the Film Fund and the Arts Fund were set up.

2008

Smart Island - The National ICT Strategy for Malta 2008-2010

2009

Inter-ministerial commission setup to prepare for Malta’s bid to host the European Capital of Culture.

2009

Architect Renzo Piano unveiled schematic designs for the new main gate to Valletta, a new parliament in Freedom Square and an open-air piazza/ performing space on the site of the Opera House. The project is being managed by MITC.

2009

In the budget speech for 2010, the Minister of Finance announced the Government's ambition to incentivise the creative industries

2010

The EUR 2.5 million project being carried out on the 16th century Biagio Steps announced.  This will transform the place into an interactive centre focusing on how Maltese fortifications were built.  This is an initiative of the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs.

2010

Creative Economy Working group set up at the Ministry responsible for Finance, the Economy and Investment.

2010

Launch of Draft cultural policy and extensive public consultation meetings.

2010

Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism and the Environment OPM made also responsible for culture.

2010

In the budget speech 2011 Government confirms support for culture and creative industries and launches 4 new funding programmes and a Trust fund. An increase of 13.2% in the culture budget is announced.

2010

The Creative Economy prioritised as a pillar of Vision 2015 and beyond.

2011

Bidding process launched for European Capital of Culture. All Local Councils sign Charter to support Valletta as the bidding city.

2011

New legislation to establish Malta Libraries a national agency that absorbs the Department of Public Libraries and the National Library. 

2011

Launching of National Cultural Policy

2011

The Creative Economy listed as a priority in the National Reform Programme and the Euro Plus Pact.

2011

Launch ofDraft Children’s policy which places creativity as one of the pillars of the policy.

2011

New fiscal measures announced for Budget 2012 with an increased budget of 10.4%

2012

Launching of creative economy strategy

2013

Labour Party elected. Culture portfolio attached to Local Government within a Parliamentary Secreteriat. All Boards and leading positions in public cultural orgnaisations are changed. 

2013

A Culture Directorate is set up within the Minsitry.

2013

Valletta officially proclaimed European Capital of Culture in 2018

2013

Malta Council for Culture and the Arts announces role as host of the IFACCA World Culture Summit in 2016

2013

Pjazza Teatru Rjal, an open air theatre,designed by Renzo Piano, is officially inuagurated

2014

Culture shifted to a ministerial portfolio with Justice and Local Government

2014

The selected design of MUZA (new museum of art) is announced. 

2014

The Malta Council for Culture and the Arts rebrands as Arts Council Malta and announces new strategic role.


Chapter published: 12-08-2015

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