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Spain/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

The 1978 Constitution created a new administrative territorial division in Spain, with three administrative levels: central government, Autonomous Communities or Regions, and local councils. According to the areas of competence laid down in the Constitution, all three levels have general responsibilities for culture. It also separates central government responsibilities from regional responsibilities (see chapter 5).

Both national and regional cultural administrations have lightweight structures. After the 2011 elections, the central government considered it necessary to reform the structure of the Ministry of Culture (Royal Decree 1887/2011 that establishes the basic organic structure of the ministerial departments) and, in order to achieve maximum austerity and effectiveness, created the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. At present, the Secretary of State for Culture of the current Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport is the body responsible for cultural policies of the central administration (see chapter 1). This is subdivided into two Directorate-General:

This lean organisational structure is also due to the fact that some cultural bodies (autonomous organisms) have an independent legal status (legal entities of public law) and a certain degree of operating autonomy (see chapter 7.3). Such is the case for e.g., the Prado Museum, the National Library of Spain, and the Film and Audiovisual Arts Institute.

At the regional level, Spain is divided into seventeen Autonomous Communities (and two cities with autonomous status), which have broad powers in matters of culture. In particular, the Constitution gives them both management and normative control over those areas where public regulation of some kind is traditional: museums, libraries, performing arts, handcrafts, etc. National museums, libraries and archives remain under state control, although, in most cases, responsibility for operating them is delegated to the regions. The involvement of regional governments in cultural matters has been traditionally deeper in those communities that have their own language, and particularly in the so-called "historic nationalities", i.e., those that first obtained administrative autonomy: Andalusia, Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia (article 151 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution). At present, only Catalonia has assigned the administration of cultural affairs to a specific Department, while the remaining regional governments have opted for mixed bodies in which culture is administered jointly with education, tourism, linguistic policy, social affairs and / or sports.

The coexistence of administrative structures with autonomous organisms at the national level is also present in various regions that have autonomous bodies in their departmental structures, e.g.:

  • regional policy on reading and literature promotion is entrusted to an autonomous government body, the Institute of Catalan Literature;
  • in Andalusia, the management of cultural programmes is entrusted to the Andalusian Agency of Cultural Institutions, constituted as an entity of public law;
  • Galicia has the Galician Cultural Industries Agency and the Galician Centre of Contemporary Art;
  • Castile-Leon has, since mid-2012, a Council for Cultural Policies with an advisory character that informs about the state of culture, the arts and cultural heritage in the community;
  • regional policy for the promotion, development, protection and dissemination of the arts and cultural industries in Murcia is entrusted, since the end of 2012, to the Institute of Cultural Industries and the Arts; and
  • in January 2013, and recently modified in September 2014, the Valencian Community entrusted the development and implementation of cultural policy to the entity Cultur Arts Generalitat, which is governed by private law.

At the local level, the Local Regime Act 1985 gave city and town councils administrative powers over local heritage, cultural activities and amenities, and "leisure activities". The law states that population centres of over 5 000 inhabitants are obliged to provide library services and it allows the municipalities to promote "complementary activities to those provided by other government bodies and, in particular, those concerning culture". In practice, local authorities have almost unlimited power to promote cultural activities at the municipal level. Their proximity to the citizen and the political rewards of such activities explain the huge expansion of local cultural events up to the start of the 1990s. Today, the bulk of cultural spending is carried out at the local level (see chapter 6).

Chapter published: 24-06-2015

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