The Lithuanian Cultural Policy Strategy 2030, adopted by the Lithuanian Government in 2019, sets the following four objectives of Lithuanian cultural policy: to strengthen the cooperation between the state, municipal and non-governmental sectors reducing cultural exclusion and inequalities; stimulate creation and participation in culture; develop critical thinking and citizenship of the society; create sustainable social and economic value of culture for national progress.
The first objective has to be achieved by accomplishing three tasks: to ensure leadership and proportionality of performed functions within the network of cultural institutions; improve the quality and efficiency of the performance of cultural and art institutions by optimally distributing services across their networks; to ensure the sustainability of cultural human resources and their equal distribution. The second objective also comprises three tasks: to develop and foster talents by providing the appropriate conditions for creation in different artistic fields; to promote the equal accessibility of high quality and various forms of culture for diverse social groups; to expand the participation in diverse creative activities by lifelong development of cultural competencies.
The third objective of the Strategy links the issue of cultural participation to the development of civil society and critical thinking of people. The tasks of the objective are the following: to strengthen the immunity of citizens and institutions to information threats and their civic activity and knowledge; strengthen people’s critical thinking ability and understanding of cultural phenomena; develop national awareness and cognition of tangible and intangible heritage of modern society. The tasks of the fourth objective are to ensure the role of cultural policy while formulating and implementing national priorities; concentrate cultural resources on the development of social capital; stimulate entrepreneurship of the cultural and creative industries and their participation in the creation of innovation.
The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania is in charge of the following areas of culture: memory institutions (heritage, libraries, museums, archives), performing arts (theatre companies, concert halls, orchestras, etc.), visual arts (galleries, arts centres), media and information (press, radio, television), creative and cultural industries (design, architecture, publishing), copyright, and ethnic culture (cultural centres). The Ministry shapes, organises, coordinates and controls the policies in these areas, allocates appropriations to the state institutions, and implements several funding programmes. In its activities, the Minister relies on the advice of the Board of the Ministry of Culture and 16 Advisory Councils. To deal with individual current issues, the Minister forms temporary working groups and commissions.
Cultural policy implementation bodies are the Lithuanian Council for Culture, Film Centre and Press, Radio and Television Support Foundation. These institutions allocate funding for arts, culture and media projects through calls for tender. They are relatively autonomous and make funding decisions on expert judgment. The activity of these institutions is regulated by special laws that define their functions and the sources of state allocations to their funds (see chapter 4.1.2).
The cultural heritage protection policy is mainly implemented by the Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture. The functions of the Department include maintenance and management of cultural properties, maintenance of accounting and control of cultural heritage, as well as presentation of cultural heritage to the society; the Department also contributes to the formation and implementation of national policies in the area of protection of cultural heritage.
In general, the Lithuanian cultural policy system is centred in the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, which performs the main functions of cultural policy formation, implementation and control. The establishment of the three above mentioned funding institutions was meant as a step towards horizontal decentralisation of the system, however, their influence is quite limited due to their small financial capacity. The Lithuanian Council for Culture distributes approximately 7 per cent of the total central government funding for culture, the Film Centre 2 per cent, and the Press, Radio and Television Support Foundation about 1 per cent. Although by establishing these institutions the idea was to decentralise cultural policy and to create independent policy-making bodies of the “arm’s length” type, they mainly act as projects funding and administration bodies.
1990 – 2000. Lithuanian cultural policy has undergone profound transformations since 1990, as Lithuania declared Independence from the Soviet Union. In 1991, the 3rd Lithuanian Government declared in its programme the aim to reform cultural policy system and to base the new cultural policy “on the principles of freedom of expression, self-regulation of culture, openness of the national culture, modernity, democracy and decentralization”. Democracy was understood in the document as self-government of cultural community and freedom of expression. In practice, it meant the abolishing of the former regulation of artistic and cultural expression, support for the new self-emergent social structures of cultural community, division of the decision-making powers between government and arts experts. The Government’s programme also postulated that “State regulation is meaningful only in the areas of education and heritage. The State refuses to regulate the artistic and cultural expression, it will promote priority directions of cultural development and non-commercial art by financial means only”. The programme declared the necessity to establish an Arts Foundation and allocate financial support for culture on the basis of expert evaluations. In the same year, the Ministry of Culture established the Arts and Culture Council and some other expert councils and commissions. However, they did not have the real political power and acted as advisory bodies only.
The next five years, Lithuanian cultural policy discourse was marked by active discussions about the Lithuanian “model” of cultural policy, particularly about the relationship and division of power between the Ministry and cultural community. In 1996, the 7th Lithuanian Government organised the Lithuanian Cultural Congress that had to find a consensus of cultural community and formulate the main cultural policy principles. The Lithuanian Ministry of Culture prepared the draft document of cultural policy principles for the discussion in the Congress and the Council of the Congress prepared an alternative document on the same subject. None of these documents, however, were adopted during the Congress. Cultural community found the principles proposed by the Ministry too conservative, as they did not make any significant institutional changes in the cultural policy system. The principles proposed by the Council of Congress, in opposite, were too radical and did not gain the acceptance of the participants of the Congress. Both sides, however, agreed on the need to establish a foundation for support of culture. That was implemented in the same year. The Lithuanian Parliament established The Press, Radio and Television Foundation and, two years later, the Culture and Sports Foundation was established, which in 2007 was reformed into two separate foundations, i.e. the Culture Foundation and Sports Foundation. The budgets of the foundations, however, were very limited therefore they did not play any significant role in the financing of culture. The Lithuanian Ministry of Culture remained the most powerful and important institution in strategic and operational matters of cultural policy, so the overall system of cultural policy remained centralised.
The next four Governments did not try to reform Lithuanian cultural policy model and attempted only to achieve consensus on the main cultural policy principles. In 2001, the 11th Government approved a programme document titled Provisions on Lithuanian Cultural Policy. The document defined goals and objectives of cultural policy but did not include any changes to the cultural policy implementation mechanism. The institutional system of cultural policy remained the same; the Ministry of Culture remained the main body of cultural policy formation and implementation.
2001 – 2010. In the decade after the adoption of the mentioned provisions in 2001, the need for changing the cultural policy implementation mechanism grew. Artists and professionals of different cultural spheres demonstrated their discontent with the existing centralised model and financing of culture. Like in other East European countries the traditional/governmental/centralised financing mechanism seemed to be “the obstacle” that, once removed, would allow cultural life and the arts to flourish, fostering new forms of creative expression, excellence and diversity. The situation became especially tense within the Lithuanian professional theatre community. During the first decade of Independence, a number of highly professional private theatres emerged in Lithuania. Compared to state-funded theatre, the quality of their performances was similar or even higher. Since the state theatres received direct funding from the Ministry of Culture and private theatres had to earn their own living, they were forced to operate and compete under extremely uneven conditions.
In 2010, the 15th Lithuanian Government returned to the reform of cultural policy system. The Ministry of Culture prepared the strategic document Lithuanian Cultural Policy Change Guidelines, which was approved by the Lithuanian Parliament. The Guidelines claimed that the “model of cultural policy implementation and its institutional character inherited from the soviet time was never essentially changed in Lithuania and cultural self-regulation was not ensured” and stated the need “to reform and democratise the governing of culture by further developing the self-regulation of the cultural sphere. … [For that purpose] It is necessary to: 1) make the cultural policy model more democratic, i.e. to separate policy formation from policy implementation and to follow the example of the Science Council by establishing the Arts Council”.
2011 – 2020. In autumn of 2012, the Parliament of Lithuania adopted the Law on the Council for Lithuanian Culture. The Law defines the Council as a budget-financed institution under the Ministry of Culture and its main functions: to finance culture and arts programmes, administer the Culture Foundation, distribute grants and other types of support to culture and arts professionals, and monitor the culture and arts projects that are under implementation. The Council consists of 10 members and a chairman. The chairman of the Council is appointed by the Government. The members of the Council are elected in two rounds following the principle of proportional representation of all spheres of culture and arts, including all geographic regions. Both natural and legal bodies can delegate candidates to the first round of the elections. Out of them, 20 candidates are selected to the second round by secret ballot cast by the voters delegated by culture and arts organisations. Out of the selected 20 candidates, the Minister of Culture selects 10 candidates to form the Council that are submitted for the approval of the Government by following the principle of broad representation (more about the activity of Council for Culture see chapter 1.2.2).
The Lithuanian Council for Culture was established in 2013. One year earlier, in 2012, the 15th Lithuanian Government had established the Lithuanian Film Centre. The Film Centre replaced the Film Council that operated since 2002 as a collegial advisory body on film policy formation and film funding under the Ministry of Culture. The decisions of the Film Council on film funding were constantly criticised in the press because of the unclear evaluation criteria and funding of projects that were related to the members of Council. The newly established Film Centre started to operate more transparent, with clear procedure and criteria, but its decisions were criticised anyway, particularly by the Lithuanian Cinematographers’ Union because of the “overall direction of film policy”, since the Centre did not select some projects of eminent filmmakers for funding. At the end of 2013, the Minister of Culture re-established the Film Council as advisory body under the Ministry. The Ministry and the Council took the function of film policy formation and the Film Centre remained as a funder for film projects and an administrative body (more about the activity of Film Centre see chapter 1.2.2).
The Lithuanian Cultural Policy Change Guidelines is the most important strategic document on cultural policy for the next 5 years. The Government adopted the Action Plan of the Implementation of Guidelines. Besides the aim to establish culture as a strategic direction of the state development, giving priority to the cultural policy and the establishment of the Council of Culture, the Plan included other important tasks and measures: to establish a quality evaluation system of cultural and artistic institutions linking institution funding to the results of its evaluation; to conduct research about the accessibility of culture by social, economic, geographical and other indicators; to draft legislation establishing tax incentives enabling the development of the Lithuanian film industry; to improve the process of accounting of immovable cultural heritage by ensuring its transparency and efficiency; and more. Many of the planned measures, however, were not implemented. In 2012, the Lithuanian Parliament approved the state progress strategy Lithuania 2030 and the Government passed The National Advance Programme for the years 2014-2020, which did not fully integrate the provisions of the Action Plan of the Implementation of Guidelines. In the new Programme, culture was treated as a horizontal priority that had to be implemented through the Inter-institutional Action Plan of the Horizontal Priority Culture. The Action Plan, however, was only partially successful, as not all implementing institutions were fully aware of the potential contribution of culture to other public policy objectives.
In 2018, being aware that the implementation of the plan did not lead to a needed consolidation of culture and other areas of public policy and the establishment of its strategic role, the Ministry of Culture prepared a new Lithuanian Cultural Policy Strategy for 2020–2030 that was approved by the Lithuanian Government in 2019. The Strategy is the first comprehensive long-term cultural policy strategy since the restoration of the independence of Lithuania. The strategy is based on empirical data, situation analysis and experts’ evaluation of the current state of affairs. It formulates core values of cultural policy and sets its strategic directions, objectives and tasks for the next 10 years.