Overall responsibility for policy in the fields of cultural heritage and the arts lies with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Sport is also under the Ministry’s jurisdiction, supervised by a separate Undersecretary for Sport. A separate undersecretary is in charge of Tourism.
On constitutional grounds, the Greek Parliament has a key role in cultural affairs, notably, passing legislation on issues pertaining to cultural heritage and the arts, which are introduced by the Minister of Culture. In addition, it’s Standing Committee for Culture and Education has an important role in supervising the implementation of policies and programmes of the Ministry of Culture and its agencies; issues relevant to foreign cultural policy, on the other hand, are addressed via the Standing Committee on Greeks Abroad or the External Affairs Standing Committee of Parliament.
The Ministry of Culture consists of four General Directorates: Antiquities and Cultural Heritage; Restoration, Museums and Technical Works; Contemporary Culture; and, Administrative Support (which includes the Directorates of European Union and of International Relations). Together they have collective responsibility for the:
- preparation and implementation of legislation;
- the definition and implementation of the regulatory framework;
- strategic planning, programming, funding;
- programmes and activities in the fields of cultural heritage preservation and valorisation (including archaeology, museums, and folk culture); and
- preparing sector policies for books, literature, the visual arts (including photography, design, and digital media), cinematography, music, theatre, dance, and performing arts in general.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate Change are jointly responsible for protection of the architectural and natural heritage.
Some areas of policy responsibility lie with other Ministries, including:
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs (certain instruments pertaining to foreign cultural policy);
- General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad;
- Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs (with
departments responsible for various religious denominations);
- General Secretariat for Lifelong Learning;
- General Secretariat for Youth;
- Secretariat of Information and Communication, under the authority of the State Minister and Government Spokesman, for media policy.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is assisted in the preparation, planning, funding, control and / or implementation of policy by consultative bodies, such as the Central Archaeological Council, the Modern Monuments Council, the National Commission of Museums, and by arms-length agencies, such as the National Book Centre, the Greek Film Centre, the Fund of Credits Management for Archaeological Work and the Hellenic Intellectual Property Organisation. Members of these consultative bodies and the governing bodies of arms-length organisations are appointed by the Minister of Culture, with some positions filled by ex officio representatives from the sector (different to the British or Nordic models of arms-length).
The Ministry has set up special departments responsible for cultural heritage protection: the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, the Ephorate of Private Collections and the Service for the Restoration of the Acropolis Monuments. In addition, a number of archaeological museums were given special regional service status (National Archaeological; Epigraphical; Numismatic; Byzantine; Archaeological Museum of Heraklion; Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki; Museum of Byzantine Culture of Thessaloniki). In addition, several regional services of the Ministry of Culture are responsible for the on-site implementation of policies on the protection, preservation and valorisation of archaeological heritage, namely, 25 Ephorates of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, 14 Ephorates of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Antiquities, and 8 Ephorates of Contemporary and Modern Monuments.
Several major public museums and galleries operate at arms-length from the Ministry despite being almost fully dependent on central government funding. These include: the National Gallery-Alexandros Soutzos Museum, the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens and the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki. Some not-for-profit foundations or associations, such as the Benaki Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Macedonian Centre of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, the Greek Film Archive, and the Foundation of the Hellenic World play an important complementary role.
The Ministry of Culture provides support for regional cultural development and the arts via its arms-length sector bodies. Some regional theatre organisations, municipal cinemas, cultural centres and other similar organisations are co-funded by the Ministry of Culture, and operate under the long-term programme agreements between the municipalities and the Ministry. As a rule, such organisations operate as agencies of local government, under its effective administrative control. The actual co-ordination of policy by central government is organised on an ad-hoc basis, sometimes based on the implementation of framework agreements with regional cultural institutions, such as the municipal theatres, and those founded under the Cultural Network of Cities programme, or aided by sectoral bodies such as the National Centre for Books and the Greek Film Centre. In addition, a large number of independent folk art, ethnographic, applied arts or local history museums are financially supported by the Ministry of Culture.
Current central government policies are based on an attempt to re-adjust the balance between direct government and at arms-length control, mostly on the basis of a re-centralisation initiative in terms of governance, and a rationalisation and transparency drive in terms of public funds allocation. A register of independent arts organisations has been established in 2010 as a tool to establish an open mechanism for documentation and funds allocation. However, in the current austerity climate (after 2009), central government funds barely cover the support to current infrastructure and payroll in state and state-supported national institutions, and funding to independent arts organisations is very limited; as a result, funding for cultural action has shifted dramatically from the central to the regional level, which (after the abolition of the sectoral European Community Support Framework operational programme for culture) still benefits from EU funding that can be used for some culture-related initiatives.
A major organisational change was recommended by a recently prepared White Paper commissioned by the Minister of Culture in the area of contemporary culture and cultural policy at large. The proposed change introduces a new organisational plan for the General Directorate of Contemporary Culture, including the fields of folk and popular culture, independent popular art, local history, and contemporary culture museums, intercultural dialogue policies, and cultural industries and divided in four new, process-based directorates: a. Strategy & Planning; b. Policy Implementation; c. Supervision, Administration & Support; d. Artistic Education; and e. Popular Culture & Intercultural Dialogue. In the light of general elections in mid-2012, it is not clear to what extent proposed changes will be adopted and implemented by the next government.