A new Cultural Diplomacy Fund will facilitate cultural export, collaboration and mobility.
Parliament approved a Bill in 2011 to set up a Council for Maltese Living Abroad and establish a Maltese Cultural Institute.
3.4.2 Public actors and cultural diplomacy
The interaction between the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs occurs during the ratification of bilateral agreements. Collaboration between the EU Affairs and Policy Directorates within each Ministry also serves as an important governmental network to sustain Malta's ongoing relationship with the European Union and other countries.
Until recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not have the necessary mechanisms to propose yearly cultural programming or events to encourage Maltese embassies abroad to propose cultural events in their programmes. Each respective Embassy sought separate partnerships in cultural projects depending on the resources of the Embassy and cultural acumen of the Ambassador. In Budget 2011, government announced a new initiative so that, in 2012, Malta presents the first showcase of the best artistic and creative work produced in Malta and Gozo, to attract international producers, curators and agents, and assist them in further reaching international markets. In the 2012 budget a Cultural Diplomacy Fund was announced as a line-vote under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate cultural export, collaboration and mobility.
Following interventions made at the Convention of Maltese Living Abroad in March 2010, the Parliament approved a Bill in 2011 to set up a Council for Maltese Living Abroad and establish a Maltese Cultural Institute. The Council will be made up of a group of persons selected by the Prime Minister after taking into consideration the organisational set up of the Maltese communities overseas together with another group of persons living in Malta who are versed in matters relating to Maltese living abroad. The Council is to be chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and will have a majority of its members from overseas. The objectives of the Council are:
The legislation also proposes the establishment of the Maltese Cultural Institute which will pool resources currently available in three different ministries for the promotion of the Maltese language, culture and traditions.
Local Councils have also been showing a keen interest in twinning programmes with European towns and villages, resulting in bilateral cultural schemes, mostly in the field of band music, folklore and cultural heritage. Malta and Gozo have a total of 68 Local Councils. Over the years, between them, they have concluded 58 different town-twinning agreements. Maltese Local Councils seem more adept at concluding agreements with town-councils in neighbouring Mediterranean countries with 40 agreements with Comuni in Italy and Sicily. Other twinning agreements were concluded with Spanish, Greek and Cypriot towns. Some local councils managed to look further afield and have concluded twinning agreements with communities in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, China and the United States.
Publicly mandated cultural agencies and institutes maintain their active status. Institutes like the Alliance Francaise, the Italian Cultural Institute and the German-Maltese Circle are particularly effective in diffusing European culture, organising language courses and facilitating cultural projects between Maltese and foreign organisations.
As one of the most active organisations, British Council Malta had an excellent track record in fostering long-term cultural projects between Malta and the UK. The yearly artistic programmes which the British Council presented in Malta offered some of the most contemporary and innovative cultural projects. However, in 2007, due to downsizing of its operations in Malta and strategic development in the mission of the British Council, the Malta office will no longer assume a bilateral role, but enhance the Council's profile in the Mediterranean region.
The American Centre contributes to the cultural life of the island by way of supporting projects with American artists. There is also an Islamic Centre that offers several activities to promote inter-religious dialogue. The Centre, funded by Libya, runs its own its own Islamic School, headed by a Maltese, female director. It also boasts a substantial library, offering titles ranging from Muslim folklore to Islamic philosophy.
In 2003, following excellent bilateral relations between Malta and China, the Chinese government opened a cultural centre in Valletta. As the first China Cultural Centre in the Mediterranean region and the fifth in the world, the centre is seeking to reach out to the peoples of the Mediterranean and Europe by holding Chinese cultural seminars, exhibitions, Chinese language classes and other activities.
Malta's proximity to Italy, as well as traditional historical connections with that country, frequently results in technical assistance by the Italian government through Financial Protocols which mainly support cultural heritage restoration programmes. Being the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification, the Italian Embassy in Malta recently took the initiative to ensure that the last phase of the restoration of St. Catherine's of Italy Church in Valletta is expedited so that completion may coincide with the feast of the patron saint on 25th November 2011. This project also saw a 7 year long music programme organised by St. James Cavalier, Centre for Creativity to raise awareness and funds for the restoration project.
One important development, in recent years, has been the enhancement of the European Film Festival, organised by the European Commission's Office in Malta. In the past three years, the festival has attracted a significant following, composed of Maltese patrons and members of respective foreign communities.
Malta also tries to retain an important cultural profile at international conferences. In 2006, for instance, Malta hosted the International Tourism Forum, and a Malta declaration advocating the correct balance between development, tourism and heritage conservation was adopted by Europa Nostra.