The collapse of the system in Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany in 1989/90 produced new cultural tasks, both within the Federal Republic of Germany and in its relations with European neighbours. The difficult financial situation of all public funds has been a determining factor in cultural policy discussions on the municipal and federal state(Länder)level since the mid-1990s, and increasingly so since the turn of the century.
In the past ten years, discussions and actions (on the part of both public and private actors) have focused on:
- support for culture institutions in the new capital city Berlin;
- Enquete-Commission “Culture of Germany”;
- passing of new laws in the fields of copyright and taxation for foundations as well as re-enforcing social insurance provisions for self-employed artists;
- cultural education;
- cultural industries;
- repatriation of unlawfully seized cultural assets;
- UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions;
- design of the cultural infrastructure;
- concept-based cultural policy in the federal states (Länder);
- Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP);
- sale of art objects owned by the federal states;
- Humboldt Forum;
- provenance research;
- culture and climate / sustainability;
- culture and home(land).
The current priorities of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media are women in culture and media – asserting equal opportunities, cultural education and integration, art in exile, dealing with cultural assets from colonial contexts and film promotion.
During the 1990s, the Federal German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag), the Council made up of representatives from the 16 federal states (Länder) (Bundesrat) and the Bundesregierung (Federal Government) all moved to Germany’s new capital city Berlin. The transfer of power from Bonn (former capital) to Berlin underscored the national cultural significance of the new capital and led to a growing commitment on the part of the Federal government to support cultural life in the city. In 2001, the Capital Cultural Contract was concluded between the federal government and Berlin, in which the takeover of Berlin institutions by the federal government was agreed (e.g. Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Akademie der Künste, Deutsche Kinemathek, Berliner Festspiele) and the stipulation of an annual 10 million EUR subsidy to the Capital Cultural Fund. The most recent version of the Capital of Culture Treaty came into force on January 1st 2018. It contains the increase of the resources for the Capital Cultural Fund to 15 million EUR annually.
Streamlining and optimising cultural funding Commission of Enquiry “Culture in Germany”
The 2007 final report of the Commission of Enquiry “Culture in Germany”, set up by the Federal German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag), resulted in many debates about cultural policy at the federal level in subsequent years. Eleven members of the Bundestag and eleven experts in cultural policy had produced a comprehensive report, which runs to more than 500 pages, based on numerous expert reports, opinions and hearings. Along with a status description of the arts, of support for culture and of the position of artists in Germany, the report contains over 400 recommendations for improving cultural support and the legal framework for the various cultural fields and the various stakeholders in cultural policy. In 2017 – on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the publication of the final report – a cultural policy debate took place on the status of the implementation of the recommendations for action.
Since 1998, the Federal Government has launched legal reforms in the area of Foundation Law (especially with regard to taxation), Copyright Law and the Law Governing Social Insurance for Artists. In summer and autumn 2006, a Draft Bill for New Regulations on Copyright Law, submitted by the Federal Government, caused a great deal of debate with respect to payments to artists. It has enacted legislation to safeguard the system of fixed book prices and has extended support to the film sector under the Federal Film Promotion Act.
In 2006, the Federal Government agreed on a new measure of support for the film industry, which came into effect at the beginning of 2007. In November 2008, the German Bundestag ratified the amendment to the Film Support Act. The sixth amendment to the Film Support Act was adopted in the summer of 2010, the seventh amendment to the Film Support Act was introduced in summer 2014.
The Federal Government has broadened the scope of support for: research on German culture and history in Eastern and Central Europe under section 96 of the Federal Expellees Act;and memorials commemorating the victims of dictatorship.
In 2009 and 2010, the public debate on Copyright Law enlarged and intensified due to the new possibilities of digital production and reproduction, not limited to music. A flat rate on culture was debated, but rejected by the parties of the governing coalition. The ancillary copyright for publishers, an act to amend the copyright law, entered into force in March 2013. In April 2019 – after two and a half years of intensive discussion – the Copyright Directive was adopted, in which the copyright regulations were adapted for the digital market. The ancillary copyright law for press publishers and the copyright responsibility of platforms were particularly discussed.
Recently, in some federal states (Länder) specific acts on libraries came into force, in September 2008 in Thuringia and two years later in Saxony-Anhalt and Hessen. In Rhineland- Palatinate, a library law was adopted in 2014, in Schleswig-Holstein the state cabinet agreed on adopting a draft law concerning libraries in November 2015. For the first time, in December 2014, North Rhine-Westphalia implemented a culture law on a federal state level (Landeskulturgesetz) – a law which does not only concern a certain cultural field but the entire cultural sector. The discussion about those and other acts supporting culture also reached the parliaments of some other federal states (Länder) (see also chapter 4.2).
In January 2015, the protection law regarding the social insurance provisions for self-employed artists (Künstlersozialabgabensicherungsgesetz) came into force . In Autumn 2015, the draft law concerning the amendments of the Act to Protect Cultural Property against Removal was adopted by the Federal Cabinet (see also chapter 4.1.6). Furthermore, theFederal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection presented a draft bill regarding an Act to Enhance the Enforcement of the Authors and Artists’ claim to adequate Remuneration and the Federal Cabinet adopted the draft of a Collecting Societies Act.
UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions
The process to develop the UNESCOConvention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions as an international legal instrument has been supported by the German Commission for UNESCO with active support from civil society actors, the German Bundestag and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. The initiative was paramount in raising awareness of the inherent dangers to public support for culture which could arise from WTO international trade agreements (e. g. GATS) or the EU Services Directive. The Federal Government of Germany signed the convention in September 2006. The German Parliament passed the convention on February 1st 2007. Germany provided its first report on the implementation of the convention in April 2012. It was created under the auspices of the relevant ministries, the Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (KMK), the German Association of Cities and the German Commission for UNESCO.
The German Commission formed a Coalition for Cultural Diversityinvolving civil society in 2004 to verbalise the German position on the Convention. This coalition, made up of experts from culture, associations, political parties, the economy, municipalities, public institutions, research and journalism, accompanied the UNESCO Convention. The coalition provided, among other things, a White Paper in December 2009 with recommendations for cultural policy in Germany and Europe regarding the implementation of the Convention. Furthermore, in 2010 the publication Mapping Cultural Diversity was presented which included good-practice examples from around the world regarding the implementation of the Convention as one of the projects of the U40- Programme Cultural Diversity 2030.
In February 2018, the UNESCO commissions of Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg presented the UNESCO World Report 2018 KULTURPOLITIK NEU GESTALTEN – Promoting creativity, advancing developments in cultural policy. The series of World Reports accompanies the implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions of UNESCO with monitoring. It shows in concrete terms how this implementation process contributes to achieving the sustainable development goals of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 (Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs). It offers recommendations for future policy-making, which also address necessary cultural policy adjustments to the rapidly changing digital environment, taking into account human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Design of the cultural infrastructure – the Kulturinfarkt (infarct of culture)?
In March 2012 four renowned authors from cultural administration and cultural management – Armin Klein, Pius Knüsel, Stephan Opitz und Dieter Haselbach – published the book Kulturinfarkt. Too much of everything and the same everywhere (Kulturinfarkt. Von allem zu viel und überall das Gleiche). They plead for a radical restructuring of cultural policy and propose to halve the existing cultural infrastructure and to redistribute savings. This publication has gained a lot of publicity, created many – often very emotional – debates and initiated several events and further publications.
Concept based cultural policy in the federal states
Several federal states have gained attention for their new cultural policy structures and programmes over the last years. Most of the 16 states have concrete initiatives for a more concept-based and systematic cultural policy. For this, they use different elements: Saxony-Anhalt carried out a cultural convention that presented its findings in February 2013, and Brandenburg presented its Cultural Policy Strategy 2012 in September 2012. Lower Saxony started working on a concept for culture development in 2011. Thuringia published a culture concept at the end of 2012. Following Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony and Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, Berlin presented a culture (funding) report in 2012. Given the topicality of the issue, the Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft organised a nationwide congress on concept-based cultural policy in June 2013 with approximately 500 participants.
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
At the G8 summit in Ireland in June 2013, the countries involved decided on the implementation of a free trade agreement (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP) between Europe and the USA, aiming on strengthening the economy of the transatlantic alliance. At an early stage, the German Cultural Council (Deutscher Kulturrat)already pointed out the impact of TTIP on the cultural sector and requested an exception for the domains of culture and media.
Central points of criticism uttered by many stakeholders from the cultural field, and from nature conservation and environmental protection – besides the lack of transparency during the negotiations – concerned the equal treatment of cultural and regular economic goods, since it does not take into account satisfactorily the dual nature of the concept of culture, as outlined in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Therefore, critics fear restrictions to cultural diversity. Other concerns are the planned investment protection, the implementation of arbitration courts and certainly the fear of German cultural funding being misinterpreted as a restriction to free trade.
In July 2014, the European citizens’ initiative Stop TTIP was founded. Its 150 stakeholders from 18 European countries also included German associations such as the German Cultural Council (Deutscher Kulturrat) and other associations for environmental and consumer protection. This citizens’ initiative was rejected by the European Commission. After that, the initiative appealed to the European Court of Justice against the rejection. The association, now comprising 250 organisations, launched a petition/signature campaign in autumn 2014 which was handed over to the Commission President in December and contained over 1 million signatures. The World Day for Cultural Diversity (May 21st) was transformed into the Day against TTIP in 2015. On 10 October 2015, a large-scale Stop TTIP – demonstration took place in Berlin and assembled more than 250 000 protesters. Since 2013, there have been various opinions within the cabinet concerning TTIP. Therefore, in October 2015, the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel clarified in a position paper that the government committed to advocate a treaty “that will not contain regulations which could entail restrictions to the diversity of culture and media in Germany”. In May 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled on the European Citizens’ Initiative case and declared the Commission’s decision rejecting the registration of the proposed European Citizens’ Initiative. The self-organised citizens’ initiative, which was founded in response to the rejection of the official European Citizens’ Initiative, collected 3.2 million signatures against TTIP and CETA between October 2014 and October 2015 and achieved a quorum in 23 Member States.
Sale of art objects owned by the federal states
The auction of two paintings by Andy Warhol from the holding of WestSpiel (a casino operator) in 2014 has initiated a debate on the sale of art objects owned by the federal states. The owner of the casino is the federal state North Rhine-Westphalia. Due to changes within the gaming market, the state-owned casino operator found itself in a difficult financial situation and aimed on rehabilitating those casinos which were making a loss by selling the Warhol paintings. The Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM) criticised the sale of art objects “to plug holes in the budget”. The discussion rose up again when it came to be known that Portigon as the legal successor of the WestLB (federal state bank) was planning to sell its art collection (its focus lies on artists from North Rhine-Westphalia since 1960, inter alia Joseph Beuys). After a subsequently held round-table discussion, the intended sale was not realised.
In June 2013, Federal President Gauck set the foundation stone for the reconstruction of the Schloss Berlin, the former residence of the Prussian Kings. Upon completion in 2019, the collections of non-European art and culture of Berlin’s museums (such as the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Arts) shall be presented there under the name Humboldt Forum. The topping out ceremony was celebrated in June 2015.
In 2002, an international commission of experts had already submitted an utilisation concept for the Stadtschloss (City Palace) and recommended to install a Humboldt Forum – as a place for dialogue between the world cultures in the center of the capital city – also in conjunction with the collections of European Art on the Museum Island. The Humboldt Forum was and is the subject of numerous debates, some of them very emotional, including questions of location (including the demolition of the Palace of the Republic of the GDR, provenance, self-dramatisation, spatial separation from the European ethnological collections, cost increases, etc.). Following postponements of the opening, the Humboldt Forum is now scheduled to open its doors in 2020.
Provenance research /repatriation of unlawfully seized cultural assets
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the international discussions concerning the repatriation of cultural assets that have been taken unlawfully from their owners during World War II led to concrete restitution of artworks. The Federal Government (Foreign Office, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media) – in coordination with the Federal States (Länder) – negotiates with many European neighbours. The Consultative Committee in conjunction with the restitution of Nazi-confiscated cultural assets, especially from Jewish collections, is working since 2003 and serves as mediator if problems occur in the course of restitution claims. Members of the committee are scientists and prominent personalities. In autumn 2006, a far-reaching debate started about the restitution of artworks caused by the returning of a famous painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner that was handed out to the heirs of the former owner by the Berlin Government. It was claimed that the former owner was forced to sell it in the 1930s. Subsequently, a number of similar cases became known. Museums intensified the research as to the origin of their artworks (provenance research), supported by special funds. On federal level, an office for provenance research was established at the Institute for Museum Research of the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage in the beginning of 2003 to support museums in their research concerning Nazi-confiscated cultural assets.
In November 2013, the debate about restitution an returning unlawfully removed cultural assets once again arose by the announcement of the discovery or artworks in Schwabing comprising more than 1 400 works, that the police found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of the art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. In the same month a Task Force for creating transparency and intensifying the provenance research was established by the Bavarian Ministry of Justice (Bayerisches Justizministerium), the Bavarian State Ministry for Education and Cultural Affairs (Bayerisches Kultusministerium), the Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundesfinanzministerium) and the Federal Government Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs (BKM). Furthermore, artworks under the suspect of having been unlawfully seized were published on the platform of the central coordination office Magdeburg (Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg).
In January 2015, the German Lost Art Foundation (Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste) was established as an institution of the Federal Government (Bund), the Federal States (Länder) and the municipalities (Kommunen). The central coordination office for lost cultural property, the office for provenance research, the temporary Task Force Schwabinger Kulturfund and the office of the Limbach-Commission are united under its roof in Magdeburg. The new institution focuses thematically on Nazi “looted art” as well as the loss of cultural assets under Soviet occupation and in the GDR. Chairman of the board of foundation is the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. In its second term of office, the Federal Government Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs (BKM) will continue to focus on expanding provenance research. In 2018, the BKM has developed a guideline for the handling of collected objects from colonial contexts. In July 2019, the Federal Office for Foreign Restitution became part of the BKM.
Culture and home(land)
In the last 2 years, the topic of home has received a lot of attention in cultural policy. It thus also addresses the different uses of the term in different political camps, but also deals intensively with the entanglements of homeland and culture. For example, as discussed during the 10th Federal Congress of the Association of Cultural Policy (Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft) in Berlin in June 2019: “Should cultural policy include “homeland” as a concept and target category in its programmatic portfolio? Can cultural policy be homeland policy in so far as it is concerned with reaching people who are concerned about their homeland and supporting those who are looking for a home in their search for a home? Which concept of home could provide orientation in this context?” The German Cultural Council (Deutscher Kulturrat) has also put this topic on the agenda, for example as a priority topic in “politik und kultur”, in statements and a series of events lasting several years together with the Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation of Germany (BUND).
Culture and climate / culture and sustainability
For some years now, the issue of sustainability
in culture has gained importance in the cultural policy discourse. In this
context, an ecological deficit in cultural policy is deplored, and a new
understanding of nature-related culture and sustainability is demanded as a key
objective of cultural policy action. At the federal level, a Council for Sustainable
Development and a Sustainability Culture Fund have been established. The
Federal States (Länder) and local authorities are beginning to develop
concepts, as are cultural institutions. The German Cultural Council (Deutscher
Kulturrat) has launched a campaign to network the sustainability discourse
between the environmental and cultural sectors, and the Institute for Cultural
Policy is working intensively on the subject as part of a research project (see
also chapter 2.8).
 In November 2019, the cost estimate was increased to EUR 650 million.