Up until the beginning of the 1990s (in the so called “socialistic period”), citizens were both directly and indirectly involved in decision-making on issues considered of local importance including the field of culture. After gaining independence in 1990, the autonomy of municipalities in the field of culture was abolished and the entire competence was transferred to the Ministry of Culture. On July 1, 1991, the Ministry of Culture became responsible for all public cultural institutions, which had been formerly the responsibility of the municipalities. This signified the transition from a completely decentralised system, based on the principles of socialism and self-management, to (at that time) a completely centralised system.
Today, there is a single level of local self-government, consisting of 80 municipalities, including the City of Skopje with 10 municipalities. The City of Skopje is a separate unit of local self-government in which the common needs and interests of citizens are accomplished, which derive from the character of the City of Skopje as the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. The municipalities are legal entities.
The decision-making process is shared between the Ministry of Culture, the government and the parliament. The Ministry of Culture drafts laws and documents for the government, which passes them on to the Parliamentary Committee for Culture for discussion and enactment. The Ministry of Culture appoints directors of national cultural institutions, approves their programme and work, allocates the funds etc.
In 1998, the Law on Culture was adopted, setting a framework for cultural policy decision-making and the financing of cultural activities. It includes principles and activities such as freedom of creative work; introduction of a civil concept in culture; an equal position for all public and private entities in the field of culture; introduction of a decentralised system for culture; financing of the national interest in culture by means of open competition etc.
The Law on Local Self-Government (2002) gave the municipality’s greater independence in the field of culture.
While society has been undergoing tremendous changes (privatisation, restructuring of the economy, unemployment above 30%, social differentiation, etc.), the cultural sector had been left untouched until 2003. At this time, the Law on Culture was amended and the National Programme for Culture 2004 – 2008 was adopted by the Parliament. In December 2003, the government passed the Decision on the Network of National Institutions in the Field of Culture, which started the process of decentralisation in the field of culture.
In 2004, the Parliament adopted the Law on Territorial Organisation and the Law on the City of Skopje.
There have been certain changes to the architecture of the system after the Ohrid Framework Agreement (2001). The changes facilitate the participation of minorities in the public administration system and within the cultural policy making processes e.g. via specific councils and working groups at the Ministry of Culture etc. At the beginning of 2003, the Office for Promotion and Advancement of the Cultures of Nationalities was also established at the Ministry of Culture. It provides balanced financial support to cultural projects of all ethnic groups and since 2005 it has begun a gradual implementation of the employment policies stipulated in the Law on Culture.