In the field of European and international cultural cooperation and exchange, the Department IV/10 “European and international cultural policy” of the Division IV ‘Arts and Culture’ of the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport (BMKOES) is responsible for cultural affairs in the framework of the EU, the Council of Europe and the UNESCO as well as for bilateral and multilateral cultural exchange together with the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.
Austria has been a member of the European Union since 1995. It participates actively in the Creative Europe (2014-2020), Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ programmes. In addition to different European networks and partnerships (ARGE Alpen Adria, ARGE Donauländer, ARGE Carinthia / Slovenia, the International Bodensee (Lake Constance) Conference, 10 Euregios etc.), Austria participates in 14 programmes in the framework of the 2014-2020 EU Structural and Investment Funds (ESI-Funds). These include seven cross-border programmes (Austria-Germany/Bavaria, the Alpine-Rhine/Lake-Constance/Upper-Rhine, Austria-Italy, Austria-Slovenia, Austria-Hungary, Austria-Slovakia, Austria-Czech-Republic), three transnational programmes (Alpine Space 2014-2020, Central-Europe 2014-2020 and Danube Transnational 2014-2020) and four interregional cooperation programmes (Interreg Europe, ESPON, INTERACT and URBACT). Furthermore, there are two nationwide programmes for investments in regional competitiveness and employment, one of which co-financed by the ERDF and the other by the ESF. In the framework of the Rural Development Programme – financed by ELER – the Arts and Culture Division of the BMKOES together with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT) carried out the initiative Leader Transnational Culture 2014-2020, which supports suitable transformation processes in rural areas by the means of art, culture and creativity.
In the framework of the EU’s regional development policy, Austria has developed extensive support programmes in all its provinces with the objective of regional competition and employment, in particular involving arts and cultural projects and their contribution to regional development. Commissioned by the former bmu:kk (the Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture), in 2010-2011, the österreichische kulturdokumentation prepared the study “The Creative Motor for Regional Development: Arts and Culture Projects and the EU Structural Funding in Austria”. It includes a survey and analysis of arts, culture and creative industries projects that have been co-funded by the EU in the framework of the programmes of the EU Structural Funds. Austria has been one of the first EU member states to show the volumes and extent of the co-funding of culture by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD): between 2007 and 2010, 534 – mostly cross-border – culture related projects were EU-co-funded in Austria with EUR 78.8 million. Because of the surprisingly large volume and simultaneously the poor accessibility to information, the Arts and Culture Division of the BMKOES has commissioned a handbook for the EU-funding period 2014-2020: At a Glance. EU Regional Supports for Art and Culture (produced by österreichische kulturdokumentation) presents profiles of all current programmes in Austria and offers concrete and practical support for Austrian artists, cultural workers and institutions.
Regarding the Council of Europe, of which Austria has been a member since 1956, Austria is partner of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes since 2011. Ten designated Cultural Routes are crossing the country: the European Mozart Ways, TRANSROMANICA – the Romanesque Routes of European Heritage, the European Cemeteries Route, the Réseau Art Nouveau Network, the Via Habsburg, the European Route of Historic Thermal Towns, the European Route of Ceramics, the European Route of Industrial Heritage, the Iron Curtain Trail and the Routes of Reformation. Austria joined the Faro Convention in 2015.
Another Focus is the Danube region: Austria initiated the Danube-Cooperation-Process together with Romania leading to the EU-Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) in 2011 to further develop the (economic) potential of the Danube, also with regard to cultural cooperation. In the period 2017-2019, Austria has been the lead partner of the Danube Culture Platform – Creative Spaces of the 21st Century, a transnational cooperation project, co-financed by the Danube Transnational Programme. The intention of the project, which involved 19 partners from 8 countries, was to connect culture and tourism by exploring aspects of hidden heritage sites, giving stories to visible and invisible cultural heritage and expanding cultural routes in the Danube region. The project has been documented in a brochure and a follow-up project is being developed.
Since 1948 Austria has been a member of UNESCO and in 1949 the Austrian Commission for UNESCO was established in Vienna. Several ministries are involved in implementing and monitoring the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, ratified by Austria in 2006: the Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA), the Ministry for Art, Culture, Civil Service and Sport, the Ministries of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) and for Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT). Representatives of the ministries join the regularly convening Working Group on Cultural Diversity (ARGE Kulturelle Vielfalt, established in 2004) as well as civil-society actors, artists and their interest groups, cultural organisations, various experts and representatives of the Bundesländer. The task of this commission is to facilitate the exchange of information and opinion on the convention as well as consulting on the focuses and priorities of its implementation.
The National Cultural Diversity Contact Point takes care of the tasks envisaged in the agreement and in the implementation guidelines. Nationally, these are information and advice, coordination and incorporation of all actors as a “clearing office”, awareness raising and publicity work as well as taking care of the Working Group on Cultural Diversity. The contact point contributes to drawing up Austrian positions and prepares the report for UNESCO, which is to be drawn up every four years. The latest report was the Austrian Report 2020 on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
International cultural exchange also takes place at provincial and city level and, alongside the promotion of events and projects, includes support for the activities of Austrian artists abroad and places for artists-in-residence. The Bundesländer maintain their own European and external relations and are represented in networks like the Assembly of European Regions.
In 2013, the Cultural Department of the Styrian Regional Government defined Culture International as a core area of it activities, bundling existing initiatives and developing new ones. Support schemes include residencies, scholarships and networking events for Styrian artists abroad (Studio and Film scholarships abroad, Brussels Artist-in-Europe scholarships and ART Styria cultural networking and showcase events), calls for cross-border art and culture projects, residency scholarships for international artists, an advice centre for culture-related funding within the EU, and the establishment of the Thematic Coordination Point on Culture of the Alps-Adriatic Alliance.
The municipalities maintain town-twinning partnerships (like Vienna-Bratislava) and cooperation; the capital Vienna is a member of European and international networks, such as Eurocities, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).