The promotion of Spanish culture abroad is a joint endeavour between the Ministry responsible for cultural affairs, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation. At present, the Directorate-General for Cultural Industries and Cooperation, through the Sub Directorate-General for Cultural Cooperation and Promotion Abroad, is responsible for the promotion of the Spanish cultural industries abroad.
In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation is responsible for foreign cultural activities through its State Secretariat for International Development Cooperation and for Ibero-America and the Caribbean, which is part of the Spanish Agency for International Co-operation and Development (AECID). This unit also deals with cultural and scientific exchanges, including grants and scholarships, as well as Spain’s international undertakings in this respect. It acts through Spanish embassies and consulates or through AECID centres on foreign soil.
The Cervantes Institute, the self-governing body set up in 1991, under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, is entrusted with promoting the Spanish language and culture internationally, for which it has 87 centres in 44 countries.
The Spanish Public Agency for Cultural Action (AC/E) was set up in 2010 to promote and disseminate the cultural realities of Spain inside and outside the country, to joint projects of different regions and cultural institutions throughout the country and support projects that involve artists, scientists and cultural and creative industries abroad. The AC/E runs the Programme for the Internationalisation of Spanish Culture (PICE) since 2013.
Traditionally, the management of foreign cultural policy has been the subject of disputes between the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. These ended in July 2009 when, in an attempt to reorganise functions, both Ministers agreed to establish a National Plan for Cultural Action Abroad (PACE). At present, the Culture Plan 2020 of the State Secretariat for Culture, passed in 2017, emphasizes the need for a unique strategy of cultural action abroad that reinforces the international image of Spain as cultural referent through the internationalisation of cultural and creative sectors and the promotion of cultural tourism.
In addition to the Culture Plan 2020, interministerial coordination, together with the Cervantes Institute, is embodied in the arts & culture SPAIN programme, which aims to disseminate and promote Spanish art and culture in the United States and serves as a space for dialogue and cooperation between Hispanic and American leaders.
Cultural activities abroad also rely on institutions such as:
- the Carolina Foundation, set up in 2000 to promote cultural relations (grants, research, visitor programmes), particularly with the Iberoamerican community of nations;
- the Casa de América in Madrid, set up in 1990 to promote exchange and mutual understanding between Latin American and Spanish cities);
- the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies in Granada, set up in 1995, to create a space for dialogue and cooperation between the countries of the European Union and those of the League of Arab States;
- the European Institute of the Mediterranean, set up in 1989, contributes to the promotion of Catalan and Spanish institutions in the Mediterranean area and promotes and participates in development cooperation projects;
- the Casa Asia in Barcelona, was established in 2001 with the priority objective of promoting and carrying out projects and activities that contribute towards greater mutual awareness, boosting relations between Spain and Asian and Pacific countries, particularly in institutional, economic, academic and cultural spheres. In the middle of 2007, and after its consolidation in Barcelona, Casa Asia opened a new seat in Madrid;
- the Casa África in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, set up in 2006, to provide a forum for fostering mutual understanding and strengthening links between the respective civil societies;
- the Casa Árabe and International Institute of Arab and Muslim World Studies has centres in Madrid and Córdoba and was established in 2006 with the aim of becoming an active instrument in strengthening and consolidating multifaceted relationships with Arabic and Muslim countries and establishing itself as a nucleus for the study and understanding of the history and contemporary reality of these countries;
- the Casa Sefarad-Israel, was established in 2006 to study the legacy of Sephardic culture as part of Spanish culture, foster greater knowledge of Jewish culture and promote the development of links between Spanish and Israeli societies; and
- the Casa Mediterráneo, set up in 2009 with the goal of being a centre for debate and dissemination of the numerous Mediterranean expressions.
At regional level, cultural activities carried out abroad by the autonomous governments have increased significantly over recent years. In 1992, the government of Catalonia set up the Catalan Consortium of External Promotion of Culture, today part of the Institute of Cultural Companies, to promote a Catalan presence in foreign markets. In 2007, the Etxepare Basque Institute was created with the aim of disseminating Basque culture and language abroad.
In general, those regions with significant numbers of overseas emigrants, notably Galicia, have encouraged exchanges, particularly in the area of music and dance. Communities bordering on Portugal or France often engage in cultural exchanges within the framework of European Union regional policies and programmes. Andalusia emphasises cultural cooperation with its southern neighbour, Morocco. More and more communities are using cultural diplomacy as spearheads for the promotion of trade and tourism.
From a budgetary perspective, state policy for cultural promotion abroad is mainly implemented through the budgetary programme entitled Cultural diffusion abroad. In 2017, this programme amounted to 119 447 000 EUR, which represents an increase of 0.7% on the previous year. After several years of drastic cuts in the funding of this programme, the negative trend changed in 2014 when the amount allocated to the programme (109 263 000 EUR) increased by nearly 16% compared to the previous year.