In federal Belgium, the Communities and Regions hold a defined set of competences vis-à-vis the Federal State. These levels of government are on the same hierarchical footing (see 1.2.1). In general, matters relating to the individual (which include Culture) reside with the Communities and matters relating to the territory (which include Immovable Heritage) with the Regions. Both Regions and Communities hold legislative and executive powers.
There are three Communities:
- The Flemish Community, which spans the territory of Flanders and Brussels
- The French Community, which spans the territory of Wallonia and Brussels
- The German-speaking Community, which spans a number of communes in the east of Wallonia
There are three Regions:
- The Flemish Region (which spans Flanders, but excludes the Brussels municipalities)
- The Brussels-Capital Region (which spans the nineteen Brussels municipalities)
- The Walloon Region (which spans Wallonia)
The powers of the Flemish Community and the Flemish Region are exercised by a single Flemish government (see 1.2.1). Within the government, the Flemish Parliament is the legislative body and the Government of Flanders (‘Vlaamse Regering’) holds the executive power. Legislation on this level is called a ‘decree’. A coalition agreement is made during negotiations for a new government, which contains the Government of Flanders’ resolutions for the coming term. Each minister then publishes policy memorandums, which lay down the goals in a specific policy field. In addition to the policy memorandum on Culture, the minister provides a more detailed account of policy objectives with regard to arts and cultural heritage in separate Strategic Vision Statements. Since 2020, each minister annually informs the Parliament of his or her policy goals and the planned allocation of funds by way of a formal explanation. In the current Government of Flanders (2019-2024), Jan Jambon is minister of Culture — next to being Minister-President and minister of Foreign Affairs, ICT, and Facility Management. Benjamin Dalle is minister of Youth and Media. Matthias Diependaele is minister of Immovable Heritage.
The services of the Flemish government administration are grouped in ten policy areas, including Culture, Youth, Sport and Media. Within this area, several bodies provide services with regard to the policy field of Culture. Among them, there is the Department of Culture, Youth and Media, which handles the preparation, follow-up, and evaluation of Flemish policies on culture, youth, and media. This includes administering the implementation of a large deal of cultural legislation, such as the Arts Decree, the Cultural Heritage Decree, or the Decree Socio-Cultural Work for Adults. Ministers and senior officials of the different administration services consult each other in policy councils.
Political primacy is an important principle in Flemish cultural policies. When policy instruments are devised or decisions are made on the support provided by these instruments, the final decision is mostly done by the minister and the Flemish government. However, the minister is advised by special bodies and the government administration. If s/he rejects this advice, the minister must provide a justification for doing so. One can discern two types in the advisory system: strategic policy advice and advice on the allocation of funding.
There is a Strategic Advisory Council for Culture, Youth, Sport and Media (SARC), which gives advice with regard to policy proposals and planned legislation — either on its own initiative or on request — to (the ministers of) the Government of Flanders or the Flemish Parliament. The SARC consists of independent experts and representatives of civil society. Its workings are integrated into the Department of Culture, Youth, and Media. Apart from a general council, there are subcouncils for Arts and Heritage, Socio-Cultural Work, Media, and Sports.
The basis of procedures for assessing the quality of funding applications in (e.g.) the arts, cultural heritage and socio-cultural work for adults is a combination of peer-review — by independent experts from the field — and review by the government department — of the administrative quality of the application. The result are advices on and rankings of applications, which the minister may follow in his/her decisions on granting subsidies.
There are exceptions to the principle of political primacy. There are entities involved in implementing policies in the area of Culture, Youth, Sport and Media that have a degree of autonomy, such as the funds for literature (Flanders Literature; see 3.5.2) and audiovisual production (Flemish Audiovisual Fund, or VAF; see 3.5.3). These entities sign management agreements with the Flemish government.
It should be noted that the competences of the Brussels-Capital Region do not wholly exclude Culture. Similar to the other Regions, it can of course devise policies with regard to Immovable Heritage (Pascal Smet is the responsible secretary of state). But as a result of the Sixth State Reform (2012-2014), it now also holds the competence of ‘Bi-cultural Matters of Regional Significance’ (Rudi Vervoort, who is Minister-President, is responsible). Though there is discussion about the exact definition of these matters, this new competence more or less means that the Brussels-Capital Region can devise policies for cultural institutions that neither fall under one of the Communities, nor under the Federal State, nor under the local authorities. This also means the Brussels-Capital region can establish its own cultural institutions.
 One result of this new competence is KANAL, which involves a partnership with the French Centre Pompidou. The foundation of this new museum has caused debate among professionals from the Cultural field in Brussels (see, for example, the reports of a conference in 2018 on the topic).