Objectives: Following the accession to the European community structures, the documents of the Romanian cultural strategies began to gradually include the principles and objectives in order to meet the European Union standards. The first document of the kind, at national level, was the Sectoral Strategy in the Field of Culture and National Heritage for the period 2014-2020. This Strategy was designed starting from the immediate reality of the field of culture and proposes a specific direction of development, in accordance with the tendencies and priorities that the European Union and the other international actors had already set at that time.
Despite the fact that this Strategy was not officially adopted by the state authorities, we must emphasize the strong positive impact of the Strategy (mostly dedicated to the public cultural sector, yet without neglecting the private sector) on the actual activity of all the stakeholders in the cultural field.
Another project of the Strategy for Culture and National Heritage 2016-2022, generated by the need to update the existing strategic framework, has been on public debate, but it has not been completed. The draft of this document highlights the need for and the importance of the cultural and creative sectors, continuing the main ideas of the previous Sectoral Strategy. Although the data provided by the National Institute for Cultural Research and Training were the same, the document contains several inadequate or overly optimistic interpretations generated by the will to urge measures and directions for the private cultural sector found only in the big urban areas.
Therefore, at the national level, there are three main documents that define cultural policy objectives: G.D. no. 90/2010 with subsequent changes and amendments, Sectoral Strategy on Culture and National Heritage for 2014-2020 and the current Governing Programme for 2018-2020.
It is important to note that a large consensus on the fundamental principles underlying cultural policies has been achieved in 2010 when G.D. no. 90/2010 on the organisation and functioning of the Ministry (then Ministry of Culture and Heritage) was adopted. Throughout the subsequent revisions and modifications of G.D. no. 90/2010, the essence of the principles underlying cultural policies was kept intact:
- Cultural creation is a privileged domain with freedom of expression being the cornerstone of human progress.
- Support and promotion of fundamental cultural rights for all citizens (access to culture and participation in cultural life) should be ensured in their interdependence with the other fundamental rights.
- The right to cultural, religious and linguistic diversity should be supported, respected and protected.
- The cultural and creative sectors should be promoted as an important factor in the process of sustainable development and as an essential instrument for social cohesion and the fight against social exclusion.
- Creativity and contemporary creation must be promoted and stimulated as an unwavering factor for human development and quality of life.
- The central role of culture and arts, of creativity and innovation in the knowledge-based society must be promoted as should be the promotion of culture as a key factor for attaining the objectives set forth in the European Agenda.
- The national cultural heritage must be protected, as it is a determinant factor of Romanian cultural identity as well as a non-renewable resource (modified by G.D. no. 563/2012).
- Cultural identities, traditions and heritage, tangible and intangible heritage must be protected and respected.
- Intellectual property of creators and artists should be protected and respected.
The main policy objectives identified in the Sectoral Strategy on Culture and National Heritage for 2014-2020 are presented below:
- The two sector specific objectives are: cultural heritage and contemporary creation.
- The three inter-sectoral strategic objectives are: education, professional training and cultural intervention, capacity building and development of cultural infrastructure.
- The four transversal strategic objectives are: digitisation of cultural resources, diversification of cultural consumption and offer, export and internationalisation of cultural goods and services for a specific target group – the youth.
The three inter-sectoral strategic objectives were identified on the basis of research and studies carried out by the National Institute for Cultural Research and Training, that showed a large imbalance in terms of access to and consumption of cultural goods and services between the various regions of Romania and in particular between the rural and small urban areas on the one hand, and large cities, on the other hand. This imbalance was further accentuated by the lack of cultural infrastructure in some areas as well as by the lack of continuity of cultural programmes and projects developed by cultural NGOs, due to the scarcity of public funding schemes available and to the volatility of the management and specialised skills within these entities.
In its chapter dedicated to culture, religious groups and national minorities, the Governing Programme for 2018-2020 states that culture is a priority and places it as a cornerstone when fighting against intolerance and social exclusion, as well as for education, professional training, national identity and democracy. The most important cultural policy objectives set forth in the Governing Programme are:
- Drawing up public policies to complete a transversal strategy that should bring together culture, art, academic research and education, at both secondary and tertiary levels.
- The need for a transversal approach of the fields of culture and tourism through the valorisation, protection and promotion of the (tangible and intangible) cultural heritage.
- Fostering and proper funding for the cultural and creative sectors of Romania.
- Support for the independent creators and cultural NGOs, by facilitating their access to funding dedicated to the cultural sector.
- Developing a transparent and competitive system of purchasing contemporary cultural creations, within the field of visual arts.
- Development of the cultural infrastructure and recovery of the industrial heritage by reconverting disused industrial spaces into cultural hubs.
- Digitisation of the cultural heritage in response to the current technological revolution.
- Support for the Romanian cinema industry.
- Financial support for the European action Timisoara – European Capital of Culture.
- Ensuring a climate of peace between religious groups, as well as religious freedom and non-discrimination on religious criteria.
- Promoting cultural diversity with a view to eliminating prejudices and acknowledging common values.
As it can be observed, the objectives listed in all the strategic documents presented above are, generally speaking, convergent, addressing most of the major issues identified by the studies and research carried out in the preceding period, in particular by the National Institute for Cultural Research and Training. The objectives and related issues are consistent with the evolution trends based on the statistical data collected and supplied by the above mentioned institute in collaboration with the National Institute of Statistics (INS).
Main features: In Romania, in particular since 2005, the main features that underlie cultural policies are:
- Tangible and intangible heritage protection.
- Promotion and support for contemporary creation.
- Capacity building, in particular with a view to reorganising the obsolete managerial system of public cultural institutions and the roles and responsibilities of the decentralised services of the Ministry.
- Cultural democratisation, both in terms of access and participation of citizens and in terms of access of non-state cultural actors to public financing schemes (as provided by Art. 33 of the Constitution of Romania).
Article 33 of the Constitution of Romania states that:
(1) The access to culture is guaranteed under the law.
(2) A person’s freedom to develop his/her spirituality and to get access to the values of national and universal culture shall not be limited.
(3) The State must make sure that spiritual identity is preserved, national culture is supported, arts are stimulated, cultural legacy is protected and preserved, contemporary creativity is developed, and Romania’s cultural and artistic values are promoted throughout the world.
Under the effect of Art. 33 of the Constitution, the field of culture shifted from its previous status of political propaganda instrument to that of public service assumed by the state. This change in status did not have an impact on the structures, though – i.e. at the level of the Ministry of Culture and National Identity, of the local authorities and public institutions. There is still a lack of understanding of the status of public institutions and efforts are made for them to be redirected towards the communities of beneficiaries. Another administrative effect of this conceptual gap is that the entire network of public institutions has a rather unresponsive behaviour towards the beneficiaries. At one point there was a tendency of accountability through management, but the law on management is one of the pivots the system should have been built on. It cannot solve, per se, all the problems of the public institutions.
One of the recurrent themes of the political debate is related to the decentralisation of cultural institutions. It should be reminded that in 1990 Romania inherited a heavily centralised system including that of public cultural institutions. Although decentralisation was a “hot topic” in the political discourse, cultural public institutions and, in many cases, local authorities were not very keen in supporting such initiatives. Arguments against such a decision ranged from “loss of prestige” (if a “national institution” became a “local institution”), fear of political interference at the local level, including discretionary power to change managers, fear of losing the preferential system of wages in force for national institutions and, last but not least, the fear of diminishing existing public subsidies with a direct effect on the quality and quantity of the specific cultural output of the respective institutions. Many of these fears were baseless and therefore the policies drafted by the Ministry in this respect in 2006-2007 were never implemented. As a result, there are still 43 public cultural institutions directly subordinated to the Ministry of Culture and National Identity, in addition to the 42 decentralised heritage services of the Ministry. Most of the other cultural institutions are placed outside the influence of the Ministry of Culture, as a result of the Law on the local public administration (Law no. 215/2001). However, all these cultural institutions aim to become subordinated to the Ministry.
Although the Ministry of Culture and National Identity has lately reduced its competencies significantly, being mainly concerned with the administration of the emblematic national institutions still under its subordination, the Ministry is considered the main entity meant to ensure the overall architecture of all the public policies and strategies dedicated to culture
Although the relationship between national cultural policies and local cultural policies is not clearly regulated, in practice it can be noticed that local (county, municipal, etc.) cultural policies draw heavily from the objectives set forth by the national cultural policies.
Background: From 1945 until 1989, with a few short periods of relapse (1965-1971), Romania was the theatre for one of the most refined and detailed totalitarian experiments in Eastern Europe. Naturally, culture was one of the most affected fields, as the state grip on individual private lives and collective mentalities alike was all-encompassing and accomplished through culture as a propaganda instrument.
In 1947, a new regime was established, the People’s Republic, which was placed in 1948 under the single rule of the Romanian Workers’ (later Communist) Party. During 1948-1949, all the other traditional political parties were brutally disbanded and most of their leaders imprisoned. As a member of Kominform (the international structure of Communist parties for media and culture), COMECON and the Warsaw Pact in the economic and military / strategic fields, Romania started to implement the socialist Zhdanov Doctrine, also known as “socialist realism”, at the domestic level. This doctrine prescribed the obedience of all actors in cultural life towards the new regime, correlated with state control of the whole “cultural chain”, from budgetary resources and facilities, to the very content of cultural products that had to be adapted and aligned to the new Soviet standards. All mass media, including television, were placed under systematic censorship, both through the presence of political propaganda by specialised departments and through the close monitoring of all forms of media content. This firm grasp on the cultural and creative life was accompanied by the progressive multiplication of various administrative entities and structures such as the Propaganda Secretariat of the Communist Party Central Committee and the Council of Socialist Education and Culture (CSEC). The public authority pyramid system was reinforced by the political hierarchy, in close communication and often employing the same human and management resources, and it thus completed the repression of any attempt of underground culture.
Romania’s progress cannot be fully understood and evaluated without taking into account the mutation process in the field of collective mentalities in general, of culture and cultural policies in particular. As a consequence of the control of the whole system and political behaviour before 1989, the 1990s presented a frantic and sometimes incoherent succession of actions.
No less than 28 different Ministers of Culture took office between 1990 and 2019, but none of them managed to raise the problem of a reform of the system, or to approach the field from a general perspective connected to the other fields. Contradictory approaches, resilience of old structures and habits, and the lack of political initiative, coupled with a progressive devaluation of culture’s rank within the national budgetary system, reduced the chances for a real reform of the system.
1996 marked the arrival to governmental affairs of the Romanian Democratic Convention, a coalition of liberals, social-democrats and Christian-democrats. The problems related to cultural structures and patterns of public policies are mainly related to the tension between the welfare and liberal mission of the state.
This period is marked by a number of foundations operating in the field of culture, which had a major role in culture’s democratisation (e.g. the Soros Foundation), as well as in the modernisation of some forms of cultural expressions in the fields of visual or performing arts (e.g. contemporary dance or the rebranding of the Museum of Contemporary Art).
Under these symmetrical pressures, the structures of the Ministry of Culture (which also included Religious Affairs at the time) – (MoCRA) – were forced to evolve, in terms of increased transparency and cooperation, and to meet the needs of the stakeholders in the domains of policy and decision making. Until 1997, the drafting of public cultural policies was exclusively carried out on a closed-circuit basis, which included MoCRA’s civil servants and decision-makers of the Ministry. In 1997, a Consultative Council of the Ministry was set up, with the possibility for representatives of relevant stakeholders to participate in its meetings periodically.
In 2001, several Regional Cultural Forums were set up, which analysts considered a bad example, as they were similar to previous communist structures of the kind.
In the autumn of 2005, the new popular liberal coalition, The Justice and Truth Alliance, brought a new, increasingly transparent vision of public cultural policies. MoCRA ceased to be a mere cultural operator, administering and distributing public funds and organising events. It aimed to complete the transfer of its competencies related to the financing of cultural programs and events to such organisations as the Natural Cultural Fund (currently the Administration of the National Cultural Fund). Also in 2005, the Public Policy Unit within the Ministry of Culture was established, under Government Decision no. 775/2005, followed by a Centre for Cultural Research and the reform of the Centre for Training and Qualification in cultural occupations.
Since 2006, three proposals for public policies have been developed and approved: to redefine institutions and companies in the field of performing arts, to develop the cultural services in rural and small urban areas, and to digitise the national cultural resources. Furthermore, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage drafted the decentralisation strategy for culture and the National Strategy on Cultural Heritage and participated in the drafting of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development.
Since 2007 progress has been made regarding the implementation and compliance with EU law and procedures related to financing opportunities for Romania as an EU member state.
During 2009 a series of proposals were set out for developing a public policy that supports creativity in the field of culture, a strategy aiming to support and stimulate cultural small and medium-sized companies. Furthermore, a strategy for increasing the absorption of non-reimbursable external (structural and community) funds for culture was promoted. Romania’s relationship with the EU and all EU-related issues were covered in the Strategic Plan for the Years 2009-2013 of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, including all cultural, audiovisual and related sectors.
From the issue of G.D. no. 90/2010 on the organisation and functioning of the Ministry of Culture, modified by it. 1 of art. I of H.G. no. 597/2017, which changes the title of the central public authority into the current designation – Ministry of Culture and National Identity, culture has remained a controversial topic. Beyond the structural changes of the Ministry and constant public budget cuts, culture has generated tensions and frictions between the representatives of the Government and the people working in the cultural and creative sectors.
Unfortunately, after 2011, the pace of drawing up the necessary standard-setting acts has slowed down, the concern for policies and strategies diminished, and the approach on culture as a unitary system of intervention for the use of the citizen has become a desideratum.
After a short period (2011-2014) of strengthening the preoccupation for urging a cultural management via intensive training of the former managers of public institutions, the Ministry of Culture (with titles including or excluding: the Religious Groups, Heritage or National Identity) completely abandoned its concern for a coherent system legislation or for the setting of priority action directions.
After the economic crisis, whose delayed impact reconfigured decentralised institutions or services with competencies at national level, the downsizing of the infrastructure has continued to produce negative effects, affecting the budgets and the wages of cultural personnel as well.
In 2013-2014 the National Institute for Cultural Research and Training was established, through the merger of the Centre for Research and Consultancy in the Field of Culture with the Centre for Professional Training in Culture; the Institute took over a large part of the tasks related to cultural strategies and took upon itself the difficult task to improve and develop the cultural statistics and systematic research of the consumption in relation to the cultural offer.
In the period 2012-2018, the law on salaries applied to the entire public system made the wages less attractive, which led to a migration of personnel toward the private field. Since 2017, through political pressure, some categories of employees have obtained unjustified salary raises, non-correlated to a quantity or quality of their work. These vertical measures have generated significant inequalities between the professionals of performing arts and concert institutions and the other types of institutions, as well as major discontents.
On the background of the decrease of its role in regulating the field of culture, the Ministry decided that the following period (2019-2020) would be dedicated to several priority goals related to:
– the draw up of the Code of Heritage – which will gather the special regulations for the immoveable, moveable and intangible heritage – due in 2020;
– carrying out ex-ante analyses for drawing up the Strategy on Culture for the new funding framework 2021-2027;
– projects for transversal strategies, together with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Tourism;
– development of the framework for the unfolding and monitoring of the project Timisoara – Capital of Culture 2021.