In the last two decades, the general objectives of Croatian cultural policy have included the pursuance of values such as: cultural pluralism (aesthetic and multi-ethnic), creative autonomy, the increase and diversification of sources for financing of culture, polycentric cultural development, and encouraging cultural participation and co-operation between the public and the private sector. These principles have been put into practice in the following way:
- diversification by encouraging cultural creativity and innovation; tolerance and inclusion of cultural minority groups, and by financing activities of various cultural interests – from high culture, alternative culture, through ethnic cultures, etc;
- support for creativity through fiscal measures such as paying social, health and retirement benefits for registered freelance artists, and support for participation by funding amateur artists’ associations.
These cultural policy objectives have not changed significantly in recent years. Such cultural policy orientation is in line with the main European cultural policy principles such as the promotion of identity and diversity, support for creativity, participation in cultural life, and respect for cultural rights.
The cultural policy system in Croatia is a version of a centralised model where the state is primarily the architect of cultural policy and the Ministry of Culture and Media is the basis of the funding system. Cultural councils are consultative bodies to the Minister, and the Ministry is in charge of distributing the grants. Arm’s length bodies such as the Croatian Audiovisual Centre, which is in charge of audiovisual activities, and the Foundation ‘Kultura nova’, which is dedicated to civil society organisations in the arts and culture, supplement this centralised model.
The main features of the cultural policy are oriented to:
- Fostering artistic and cultural creativity;
- Supporting the programmes of cultural autonomy of national minorities;
- Supporting artistic production through providing social security measures for freelance artists;
- Promoting international cultural cooperation and exchange, funding exchange programmes and artistic residencies, giving support for European cultural cooperation projects, and signing new bilateral cultural cooperation programmes;
- Supporting the enhancement of media pluralism and content diversity through special funding for public, commercial and non-profit media;
- Fostering access to culture and cultural participation, especially for children and young people either through discounts for access to cultural institutions, or through specific support programmes;
- Safeguarding the local cultural infrastructure through support for digitalisation of arthouse, small and regional cinemas;
- Encouraging the development of cultural entrepreneurship;
- Fostering contemporary artistic and cultural production through support for civil society organisations in contemporary culture and the arts.
Decentralisation has been an important subject in Croatian cultural policy and practice throughout the years, and is still an open issue of debate in the cultural sector. The introduction of cultural councils in the 2000s were step in this direction, while amendments to the Law on Cultural Councils in the subsequent years opened up the possibility for local government to introduce cultural councils on a local and regional level so as to further the process of decentralisation. However, much is needed to further these attempts as there are many regional differences that contribute to unequal regional cultural development.
In the recent decade, since Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, one can note the introduction of more entrepreneurial cultural policy discourse that highlighted cultural and creative industries as important foci. In addition, there has been more emphasis on the need for cultural institutions and organisations to orient themselves in search of additional funding through a project-based approach, highlighting EU funding as an important source.
After the Second World War, Croatia became a constituent republic of the Federative Popular Republic of Yugoslavia, which inherited the ex-Yugoslav kingdom. Its cultural policy was designed to accomplish the mission of building up socialist culture. The inherited cultural infrastructure (museums, theatres, libraries, etc.) was reconstructed and reorganised in compliance with the new social system.
In the mid-1950s the self-management system was introduced. Cultural and other public domains (education, media, health, etc.) were decentralised and regulated on the level of the six constituent republics. The 1960’s and 1970’s were a time when cultural professionalism and creativity were emphasised as a reflection of the country’s multi-ethnic character. Western influences, mainly reflected in modernisation, and the global openness of the country (the policy of non-alignment) brought various cultural influences. Ideological control over culture loosened, followed by political liberalisation and greater autonomy of the republics in the federation. The self-management system in culture and other public fields established a quasi-market economy. Instead of grants from the budget, special funds were created and their allocation was decided by bodies composed of providers and recipients of services. The overall political and economic crisis in the mid-1980’s reflected the fact that this new system was mismanaged and non-functional. It became increasingly embroiled in the main political clash between federal centralists and republican co-federalists. These political clashes led to war in 1990 and to the dissolution of Yugoslavia.
In the 1990s, the cultural policy of independent Croatia was politically and administratively centralised and incorporated in everyday life with special emphasis on national traditions. It was designed to foster a sense of national cohesion, especially at the beginning of the period when the country was drawn into war. Cultural planning and funding gave priority to activities of “national interest” in culture and left all other activities to the emerging market and to NGOs.
Since 2000, when the new centre-left coalition government was elected, there has been a broader implementation of cultural policy with a particular stress on pluralist cultural orientations. A more balanced approach to tradition and a new evaluation of the national and the multicultural components has been undertaken, together with steps towards further decentralisation and direct co-operation with NGOs. The first national cultural development strategy was created and adopted in Parliament, but it was not followed through by the next nor following governments.
In the following period, although there were changes between the centre-right and centre-left political coalitions in power, in principal there have not been any major shifts in the structuring of the overall cultural system. Culture has remained a marginal cultural policy, while the cultural budget has remained less than 1% of the overall state budget throughout the years.