Since its beginning, Switzerland has had a very strong tradition of federalism and subsidiarity. The recent discussion in Europe on civil society, the third sector, and the corresponding transfer of public responsibilities onto private institutions has therefore not affected the country’s cultural landscape in any strong way. Decentralisation, the re-allocation of public responsibilities, and public-private-partnerships are thus well embodied. Of current significance is the project to reorganise the whole system of burden sharing between the federal level and the cantons with the aim of reducing the complexity of these mechanisms. For these reasons, the federal administration and the cantons are developing new approaches – a development which may affect the arts and culture in Switzerland.
Re-allocation of public responsibilities can be observed within the public sector. For example, following a local referendum, the responsibility for the Zurich Opera House was transferred from the City to the Canton of Zurich. Voluntary agreements were made with neighbouring cantons to provide resources for the upkeep of the Opera House. The transfer of financial support can occur in the form of a percentage of the fiscal income of the previous year or as a lump sum. Such inter-cantonal cultural expenditure agreements exist between cantons serving as cultural centres (opera houses, museums with a national outreach, such as the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne) and neighbouring cantons. Under these agreements, cantons operating cultural facilities of supra-regional importance receive compensation. Such agreements are subject to direct negotiations between the respective cantons on the basis of the principles of national revenue sharing and financial compensation. Payments to be made by the Canton of Aargau, for instance, are calculated from the percentage of its visitors to the Schauspielhaus Zürich (Zurich Playhouse), the Zurich Opera House and Tonhalle, the Lucerne Theatre, the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, and the Culture and Convention Centre Lucerne. Large parts of the Swiss cultural landscape are marked by cooperation between public and private players. Re-allocation can mainly be observed between the public context and the intermediary sector. The most recent examples are the establishing of a National Centre of Competency for Photography by a private patron and the Federal Office of Culture.