Like in other countries around the globe, the year 2020 proved very challenging for the artistic and cultural sector in Croatia and thus for cultural policy making as well. The Artistic and cultural sector made numerous pleas and initiatives in order to highlight the drastic situation of artists and cultural workers in Croatia. In order to grapple with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government created a number of measures to assist the cultural sector. Debates in the cultural sector concentrated around whether these measures were adequate, or were timely, and whether they could have been made in a more sustainable manner as it has become evident that the pandemic will be prolonged in 2021.
However, the difficult circumstances brought about by the coronavirus were exacerbated on Sunday March 22nd, when the country’s capital Zagreb was hit by the strongest earthquake in the last 140 years, measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale. Many people lost their homes and there is serious damage to a number of buildings and the general infrastructure, most notably in the city centre’s Old Town. As a large number of cultural institutions, cultural organisations and companies are located in Zagreb, and especially in Zagreb city centre, the earthquake has taken a toll on the cultural infrastructure. Cultural objects, offices of cultural organisations and ateliers were left severely damaged, while others have been completely destroyed. The assessment of the damage is still being made and the Ministry of Culture and Media announced that it will work together with the City of Zagreb, conservation departments and other relevant bodies in order to develop appropriate models for renovation. At the time of finalising this report another strong earthquake measuring 6.4 hit the Sisak-Moslavina country with devastating consequences for not only the cities of Petrinja,Sisak and Glina but the whole Sisak-Moslavina country. Seven people lost their lives, a number of the citizens their homes, while according to the preliminary inspection, a number of cultural monuments and cultural infrastructure was damaged.
The year 2020 brought about parliamentary elections that led to another term of the centre-right government coalition led by the Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica – HDZ). This resulted in the continuation of the cultural policy priorities of the Ministry of Culture, which changed it’s name to the Ministry of Culture and Media in order to reflect the existing responsibilities of the Ministry and to highlight increasing focus on the media sector. Thus, there were no major changes in cultural policy priorities in relation to the former mandate that has put focus on enhancing cultural creativity and support of independent artists (see chapter 2.3 and 4.1.3); entrepreneurship in cultural and creative industries (see chapter 3.5); development of the audiovisual sector (see chapter 3.5.3); development of (digitalisation of) the heritage sector (see chapters 2.4 and 3.1); supporting the independent cultural sector (see chapters 6.4 and 2.3); and supporting audience development and participation in culture (see chapter 6), while also working on updating the cultural legislation (see chapter 4.2). The debates related to the drafts of the new law on independent artists, electronic media, authors’ rights and the critique of the continuous lowering of funding for independent media and lowering of the working standards of journalists (see chapter 2.5.3).
Much has been anticipated from the Rijeka 2020 European Capital of Culture (ECoC) project as the biggest international cultural project in Croatia since it’s independence. The project was opened on the 1st of February 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic most of the activities that were planned during the year had to be cancelled. A number of cultural policy debates related to the interconnection of international, national and local levels of cultural policy making and practice, while the COVID-19 crisis also opened the policy issues related to the process of implementation of the Rijeka 2020 programme and its legacy. The coinciding of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union with the Rijeka 2020 ECoC looked like a good opportunity to present the culture of Croatia on an international level, but the COVID-19 crisis has limited the scope of this presentation and cooperation (see chapter 4.1.9). However, a number of (mainly online) events and meetings with EU stakeholders were organised during the Presidency, including the high-level meetings on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the cultural and audio-visual sector (resulting in the Declaration by the Ministers of Culture and Media. Culture in times of COVID – 19 crisis), and among others, highlighting the need for better actions related to media literacy.