Germany is a federally organised country with different tiers of government: the Federal Government (Bund; i.e. national authorities, Parliament etc), the federal states (Bundesländer / Länder) and the municipalities(Kommunen; cities, towns, counties). The German Constitution (Grundgesetz) stipulates the division of responsibility and competencies among the different levels of government.
Article 30 of the German Constitution assigns most competencies to the federal states (Länder): “the exercise of state powers and competencies lie with the federal states (Länder), except where specifically stipulated or permitted by the German Constitution”. At the moment, there is no general constitutional clause giving the Federal Government responsibility for areas such as culture or education. Hence, the federal states are the main public actors in the cultural field and are responsible for setting their own policy priorities, funding their respective cultural institutions and for supporting projects of regional importance.
Article 28 (2) of the German Constitution affirms the role of municipalities in cultural affairs at the local level. The respective Constitutions of each federal state (Land) reinforce this provision and further define specific cultural responsibilities for local governments. Within this federal and highly decentralised system, there are a number of bodies which formulate and implement cultural policy: legislative or self-governing bodies (i.e. parliaments, councils), government administrations (i.e. ministries or departments for cultural affairs), or consultative bodies (i.e. expert committees). The size and structure of these bodies will differ across the country.
Within their fields of competence, the Federal Government, the federal states (Länder) and the municipalities are largely free to shape cultural policy as they see fit, in other words, to determine the form, extent and priorities of their cultural programmes.