Expert author: Jaka Primorac
Last update: May 26th
Expert author: Jaka Primorac
Last update: May 26th
After several measures to assist the cultural sector in minimizing the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, adopted by the Croatian Government on March 17th (see previous update below), additional actions were put into place:
New public call ‘Arts and Culture Online’
On the 18th of May, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia has issued a call for proposals entitled ‘Arts and Culture Online’ within the framework of the Operational Programme Effective Human Resources 2014-2020 financed by the European Social Fund. The aim of the call is to increase online cultural and artistic participation of persons under 25 years old and over 54 years old. The call is open to activities related to the preparation and implementation of online artistic and cultural activities aimed at increasing social inclusion of these target groups. Both public cultural institutions and civil society organisations (artistic organisations and associations active in the field of culture and arts) are eligible to apply for this call. The total financial envelope of the programme is HRK 25,000.000 (approx. EUR 3,333.333) while the budget of the project applications should be between HRK 100.000 (approx. EUR 13.000), and HRK 500.000 (approx. EUR 66.666). The share of financing per individual project is 100% of the eligible costs, out of which 85% is secured from the European Social Fund, while the mandatory share of national co-financing of 15% will be secured by the Ministry of Culture through the State budget of the Republic of Croatia. The deadline for submitting project proposals is 31 December 2020, i.e. until the financial envelope is exhausted.
Relaxation of restrictions
Due to the improving situation in Croatia regarding COVID-19, a decision by the Government of the Republic of Croatia on the three step relaxation measures has been issued on April 23rd, so as to initiate economic and other activities in the conditions of the declared epidemic. In the first week of these measures, the actions related to culture included the opening of museums, archives, galleries, libraries and bookstores who now have to adhere to recommendations issued by the National Civil Protection Authority, the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the local civil protection authorities. Furthermore, on May 15th, the Croatian Institute of Public Health published recommendations regarding further easing of measures related to rehearsals, cultural programmes and events and the organisation of recording audio-visual and music content. It is recommended that as many cultural programmes as possible should be organised outdoors. If they are held indoors (such as cinemas), seating arrangements have to be arranged to adhere to physical distancing measures, etc.
On May 25th, the Croatian Audiovisual Centre published a set of recommendations for filming during the COVID-19 pandemic, prepared by principal professional associations and in line with the recommendations issued by the Croatian Institute of Public Health.
Appeals of the independent cultural sector
The independent cultural sector has continued to advocate for the position of cultural workers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. An initiative for better working conditions has been developed by independent cultural workers, entitled ‘Platforma za radne uvjete u kulturi – Za K.R.U.H. / Platform for working conditions in culture – for B.R.E.A.D’. It includes several civil society organisations in culture and the initiative ‘Enough with the Cuts’, which includes BLOK, CDU, OOUR, Skribonauti and Ateliers Žitnjak. At the beginning of May, the group issued a public appeal for better working conditions in culture that can be found here.
Implications for Rijeka 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a large impact on one of the biggest cultural projects in the Republic of Croatia: Rijeka as the European Capital of Culture in 2020. Due to the implications of restrictions connected to the pandemic, the majority of cultural and artistic programmes had to be cancelled or postponed. In the context of significantly reduced public budgets’ following the implementation of coronavirus measures, the budgetary resources planned for the implementation of the Rijeka 2020 programme were also reduced. This also had implications for cultural workers involved in the execution of Rijeka 2020 programme; 59 employees of the Rijeka 2020 LLT company were given notice. The programme will continue in a reduced form, as announced by the organisers.
On Tuesday March 17th, the Government of the Republic of Croatia adopted measures to assist the cultural sector in order to minimise the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking into account the ban on public gatherings, cancellation of cultural events and the closure of cultural institutions, it was noted that the cultural and creative sectors were among the first to experience the effects of the pandemic. By establishing a special crisis fund, the Ministry of Culture plans to provide support for the cultural sector, including independent artists, self-employed and other natural and legal persons who are left without an income due to restrictions on the public gatherings and closing of theatres, cinemas, museums, concert halls.The crisis fund will cover the activities that fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture, the Croatian Audiovisual Center and the Foundation ‘Kultura Nova’.
It is planned that the fund will provide resources to natural and legal persons in the cultural field in order to support cultural projects that were already approved and whose execution has been delayed due to the pandemic. Following the announcement of this measure on March 24th, the Ministry of Culture issued a decision on the conditions of this funding in special circumstances. One of the measures announced was the suspension of the revision of the status of freelance artists for a period of six months. This measure was enacted on March 20th with March 17th as the starting date.
Another measure announced is connected to the Agency for Electronic Media that manages the fund for the Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity of Electronic Media 2020. The agency has announced they will redirect a part of the fund towards public monitoring of the coronavirus epidemic. In addition, they will allow for flexibility with regard to the planned programmes of the media service providers.
Another measure is entitled Support for the preservation of jobs in activities affected by the Coronavirus (COVID – 19). This measure is also intended for entrepreneurs from the cultural sector and for persons who, within the cultural and creative sectors, carry out an activity independently and pay the contributions of compulsory insurance (pension and health insurance), such as independent artists, journalists, etc., which, due to circumstances such as the cancellation of cultural events, events, performances, concerts, exhibitions, festivals, etc., have remained without regular sources of income. Employers who can prove the impact of special COVID-19 circumstances on their activities will be eligible for assistance of EUR 433 per full-time worker and EUR 216 per part-time worker. This measure is managed by the Croatian Employment Service and the total fund for all the sectors is EUR 666 million.
In addition, on March 19th the Croatian Parliament adopted the Act amending the law on the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Property, which includes suspending monument rent as an additional measure to help the economy.
Appeals of the independent cultural sector
The independent cultural sector has been very vocal about the need for assistance ever since the first restrictions on the public gatherings, travel, and organisation of events was made on March 12th. On March 14th, a public appeal for support of the independent cultural sector was issued by independent theatre producers, authors and performers, as well as the Association of Concert Promoters – Promo. It was immediately signed by over 4000 cultural workers and organisations. Following the announcement of the measures by the government, the critique towards the Ministry of Culture that followed stressed that the suggested measures are not adequate, and are not implemented fast enough.
On March 19th, an additional appeal was issued by the Platform on the Working Conditions in Culture (NGOs: BLOK, OOUR, Skribonauti, Žitnjak Ateliers, CDU) and the Initiative ‘Dosta je rezova!’. The Platform stressed the drastic impact that the COVID-19 has made on the working conditions and livelihoods of cultural workers and suggested concrete measures to help the sector.
Zagreb earthquake during COVID-19 pandemic
On Sunday March 22nd, Zagreb was hit by the strongest earthquake in the last 140 years, measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale. Many people lost their homes and there is serious damage to a number of buildings and the general infrastructure, most notably in the city centres’ Old Town.
As a large number of cultural institutions, cultural organisations and companies are located in Zagreb, and especially in Zagrebs’ city centre, the earthquake has taken a toll on the cultural infrastructure. A large number of cultural objects, offices of cultural organisations and ateliers are severely damaged, others have been completely destroyed. The assessment of the damage is still being made and the Ministry of Culture announced that it will work together with the City of Zagreb, conservation departments and other relevant bodies in order to develop appropriate models for renovation.
On March 24th, the Croatian government opened a donation fund to help those affected by the Zagreb earthquake.
Online culture resources
Taking into account the (movement) restrictions connected to COVID-19, the closing of cultural institutions and organisations and the appeal to citizens to stay at home (#ostanidoma), many cultural institutions and organisations as well as independent artists have offered their cultural content online (films, recordings of theatre shows, concerts etc). The links to most of the online cultural content is available at the website of the Ministry of Culture.