In terms of the EU, the task of the Ministry of Culture is to co-ordinate participation in the decision-making processes on issues of pan-European cultural co-operation, audiovisual policy, cultural heritage and copyright. The Ministry is directly responsible to prepare Estonia’s participation in the EU cultural and media programmes, to train programme co-ordinators in co-operation with the Estonian Bureau of European Integration, and to advise those wishing to apply for project funding from the EU programmes. In general, Estonian co-operation with European institutions has been developing since the late 1990s. For example, participation in the EU cultural programmes Raphael, Kaleidoscope, and Ariane, was opened to Estonians, and since 2001 the Culture 2000 programme.
In 2004 Estonia joined Eurimages, a European fund to support film production; Estonia also participates in other European media programmes, such as Media Plus, Media Training, Minerva, the Audiovisual Observatory. As a result of these programmes, Estonia has supported the establishment of the Baltic Media School at Tallinn University.
Estonia continues to participate in the regional co-operation programme Ars Baltica with the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea. Some instruments facilitating official co-operation among the three Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – are: the biennial Conference of Ministers of the Baltic Sea Region; the Cultural Committee of the Council of Ministers of the Baltic Countries; and regular meetings between the Ministers of Culture. One example of a concrete co-operation project among the three countries is the jointly financed Kremerata Baltica, a concert music ensemble consisting of young musicians from all three countries.
In addition to the work of the Ministry of Culture, the main institutional network presenting Estonian culture abroad is the Estonian Institute, established in 1989 initially as an NGO, but now financed mainly by the state. The Estonian Institute currently has three offices located in Helsinki, Budapest and Stockholm (previously also in Paris). The presentation of Estonian culture abroad has been greatly extended and a specific programme for music has been created. Support is also provided for Estonian participation in international art exhibitions (e.g. the Venice Biennial), for local artists’ solo-exhibitions abroad and for film co-productions. It has been estimated that Estonian NGOs participate in the work of around 100 international cultural networks.
The role of foreign cultural institutes has been an active one in Estonia. Although the principal financer of traditional art forms continues to be the state, the means for newer art forms such as contemporary art and contemporary dance, as well as electronic music, and support for organising festivals and inviting foreign performers, is often provided by foreign cultural institutes and private funds. The Goethe Institute, British Council, French Cultural Institute and Nordic Council of Ministers have been visible financing bodies in providing support to various events on the Estonian cultural scene, and in organising cultural exchange.