It is still debatable whether “public” is the proper term to describe Albanian cultural institutions. A few, especially in higher education, can now be considered public institutions, as they have a certain degree of autonomy. They are run by a freely elected senate, which in turn elects rectors and other high ranking officers. Other cultural institutions established by a specific Law also have some autonomy. The National Film Centre has specialised grant-making boards that are fully elected by a general assembly of six associations of film artists. The Academy of Sciences also has some autonomy.
This is not the case with other cultural institutions, like theatres, museums, art galleries, libraries and multi-art centres. They are “budgetary institutions”, which is a poor literal translation from Albanian, meaning government agencies. All national cultural institutions have directors appointed by the prime minister at the proposal of the Minister of Culture. All directors of local cultural institutions are appointed by their respective city mayors. As a rule, the board members at any cultural institution are proposed by its respective director and appointed by either the Minister of Culture or the city mayor.
On the other hand, it is the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, in accordance with the Ministry of Finance, that makes all major decisions on the financial management of national cultural institutions, including prices of goods and services, wages and salaries, investment quota, development plans and even royalty fees paid to creative artists. This strategy has proven to be a total failure during the last 20 years, resulting in elevated costs of management, weak financial performance, lack of initiative and eagerness from management teams, unfair competition towards private initiatives and unfair staff and employment policies. Being unique in their field of activity, all national institutions do not fear competition and can pretend they are doing well, since no other institution can do more. Private organisations remain unable to compete with them, as they take little or no financial support from central or local government. The situation is not expected to change with the implementation of the new Law on Arts and Culture, as it requires no change in the legal status of all state cultural institutions.
It has become fashionable these days for national cultural institutions to seek membership in various international organisations and networks, but rather than a way of expanding their potential for high quality work and European integration, that is seen as a mere boost in public relations. The National Theatre, for example, has announced its affiliation to the European Convention of Theatre two years ago, but there have been no other follow-up initiatives. The National Film Centre, on the contrary, has been making use of its international alliances with Eurimages, European Film Promotion and SEE Cinema Network.
Local cultural institutions engage in “twining agreements” with other similar institutions abroad, but only a few, like local theatres in Vlora and Shkodra have in the past co-produced plays with their Italian partners.
Business partnerships are a new and still marginal reality. In 2007, the National Opera and Ballet Theatre signed the first sponsorship deal with Vodafone Albania and the National Theatre has in turn signed an agreement with the paid-TV provider Digitalb.