The General Principles of Cultural Policy up to 2020 contain the priorities of cultural cooperation: “The state will create opportunities for the internationalisation of culture. Culture has an important role in external relations, export and the country’s public image. The network of representatives of culture is going to be widened, cooperation will be increased with the different ministries and export-promoting organisations, support for the development of cultural exports and cooperation is going to be increased significantly. More than before, the state will increase its efforts to network on target markets outside Europe, for which cultural organisations and creative enterprises have expressed their interest and where they have the capacity to enter the market.”
The main institutional structures involved in the processes of internationalisation and cultural cooperation are the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Estonian Institute and Enterprise Estonia with its representatives abroad.
The task of the Ministry of Culture is to promote the internationalisation of Estonian culture, to develop cultural relations and diplomacy between countries, and to participate in the formation of cultural and sports policies in international organisations.
Estonia has signed nearly fifty bilateral cultural cooperation contracts and joint programmes with countries all over the world. Estonia also participates in fifteen international organisations, forums and cooperation programmes.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, eight cultural attachés from the Ministry of Culture work in Estonian embassies. Estonia has cultural attachés in Brussels, Berlin, Moscow, Helsinki, London, Paris and New York. The cultural representative in Brussels also represents Estonia’s interests in the European Union in matters within the competence of the Ministry of Culture. In addition to developing bilateral relations, the cultural representative in Paris has to represent Estonia in UNESCO. The creation of Estonian Institutes in Finland and Hungary has involved cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both ministries are involved in preparing and implementing bilateral as well as international agreements on cultural co-operation
The Ministry of Culture supports the internationalisation of Estonian culture, cultural exports and introduces Estonia through culture via the supporting programme Estonian Culture in the World. The programme helps various Estonian creative persons, cultural groups (mainly NGOs) and creative enterprises to enter the international stage, take part in festivals, organise tours and exhibitions etc. The Ministry of Culture also secures co-financing for the projects supported by the EU programmes, for example for cultural co-operation projects submitted by Estonian cultural organisations to Creative Europe.
The Ministry of Culture provides project-based assistance to large scale international music and performing arts festivals, international exhibitions, to ensure their quality, and the persistence of international relations in the field. International projects are funded through the Ministry’s grant programme Estonian Culture Abroad. The programme assists projects that enhance the internationalisation of Estonian culture into the world, the introduction of Estonia globally through culture, and the creation of wider opportunities for Estonian creative persons. It also helps various cultural groups and creative enterprises to enter the international stage.
Activities under cultural cooperation bilateral agreements are supported by both parties to the agreement – the host country covers the costs of receiving guests and the visiting country takes care of the travel expenses. Grants from the Ministry of Culture are combined with other public sector sources of financing, for example from the Cultural Endowment and local authorities.
Enterprise Estonia supports development centres in different culture fields, including their activities that are related to cultural exports.
The Ministry of Culture finances Estonia’s representation at major international events such as the Venice Biennial of Art, Venice Biennial of Architecture, Helsinki Book Fair, Frankfurt Book Fair, and Gothenburg Book Fair.
The Estonian Institute spreads information about Estonian society and culture abroad and was established in 1989. During its first years, the Estonian Institute partly fulfilled the role of a hotbed for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the future Estonian diplomats. The Institute’s information and culture points operated in various places in Western Europe and Scandinavia, and quite a few developed into an embassy of the Republic of Estonia in the course of restoring diplomatic relations. Soon things took their normal course and the Institute focused on conveying information about Estonia and promoting its culture. The Institute currently employs twelve persons, who work either in the Tallinn main office or branches abroad in Finland (founded in 1995) and Hungary (1998); previously, the Institute had offices in Sweden (1999-2011) and France (2001-2009).
The legal form of the Estonian Institute is NGO. The Estonian Institute is supported by the Ministry of Culture. Their support is supplemented by targeted financing from various sources for specific undertakings. In introducing Estonia abroad, the Institute’s long-time partner has been the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The teaching of Estonian language and culture is organised in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Research. The Estonian Institute is member of the European Union National Institutes for Culture EUNIC.
Since Estonia’s reindependency, international cooperation is becoming stronger and more diverse. Closer cooperation is established with countries who have their cultural representatives in Tallinn: for example the Finnish Institute, British Council, the Danish Culture Institute, Goethe Institute and The Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office.
Municipalities have their own international culture cooperation activities mainly as part of cooperation agreements with partner cities (i.e. “twin-towns” etc.).
Since 2009, the Baltic States are contributing partners to a Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture. In 2018, the Ministries of Culture of Baltic States decided to establish the Baltic Culture Fund, which partner is Cultural Endowment of Estonia.