1. Cultural policy system
Last update: November, 2020
Austria is a federal state and most cultural competences are assigned to the Bundesländer ("cultural sovereignty") by the general clause of Article 15 of the Constitutional Law. On national level, cultural policy is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Arts and Culture within the Austrian Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport (BMKOES).
The previous and current national governments and most of the Bundesländer draft their core objectives for arts, culture and cultural policy in legislative programmes or culture strategies. With different importance, the main priorities of recent years are to promote emerging artists and contemporary art creation; to strengthen the presence of Austrian artists abroad; to mediate cultural values as well as to create the conditions for cultural participation of a broader public; to strengthen the role of cultural education; to generate wider interest in art and culture among children and young people; to create suitable framework conditions for cultural work, such as the subsidies for culture institutions and artists as well as the improvement of their working conditions and to promote particularly women as well as new media and film. National cultural policy is furthermore responsible for the federal cultural institutions and the protection of cultural heritage. Other objectives have been the democratisation of knowledge and information by providing access to digital and digitalised cultural goods as well as international exchange and collaboration. Recently, partly more emphasis has been laid on private commitment for the arts as well as commercial success and exploitation of creative work.
The main features characterising cultural policy making in Austria on all levels of administration can be divided into three categories:
- Basic cultural needs: cultural policy in Austria undertakes to ensure the freedom of art and artistic expression, diversity, (gender) equality, pluralism, quality, creativity and innovation, identity and internationalisation. It safeguards and stimulates general conditions for artists and possibilities for them to flourish as well as an equal access to art and culture.
- Management: culture policy decisions are supposed to be transparent and geared towards promotion, competition and efficiency. It promotes public-private co-operation, flexibility, decentralisation, longer-term planning options, service orientation and evaluation.
- Socio-political objectives: cultural policy moreover is engaged to improve participation, integration, social security, representation and also understanding the economic effects of the cultural sector.
Austria's history in the 20th century was marked by the decline of the Habsburg Empire, World War I and the end of the monarchy, an atmosphere of departure as well as disturbances and uncertainties during the First Republic from 1919 to 1934, the annexation by Hitler-Germany, World War II and the status as a German province between 1938 and 1945 and by the period of allied occupation during the Second Republic from 1945 to 1955. With the signing of the State Treaty in 1955, Austria, the “cultural nation”, started from scratch.
The post-war cultural policy was mainly prestige-oriented. It favoured support for federal theatres or festivals more than contemporary works of literature, theatre, the visual arts and music. Most of the artists and intellectuals who had been driven away by Nazism during the war were not invited to return.
The post-war attitude toward culture changed with the general European politicisation and radicalisation of the 1960s and 1970s. The cultural vanguard became a political factor and cultural policy was recognised from then on as part of social policy.
A package of national cultural policy measures was adopted in 1975. Its main goals were to improve the cultural habits and education levels of the public and to reduce the gap between city-dwellers and the rural population. This marked a turning point as it launched a dialogue between governing bodies, the artists and the field of arts and culture education and mediation. The decisive step towards the current system of arts promotion was taken up at this time, and was gradually extended and refined over the next 25 years, including the establishment of various advisory bodies (boards, juries, commissions, curators). Intermediary bodies were also established, supervised by the government and to some extent anchored in private business.
In the 1980s, the country was seized by a veritable culture boom. Cultural spending increased approximately seven times the annual amount of the past 25 years due to the support for numerous large-scale events, festivals and major exhibitions. In the late 1980s, cultural policy priorities shifted and discussions became focused on issues of cultural sponsorship and privatisation. In 1988, public support for the arts was enshrined in a federal law: the Federal Arts Promotion Act.
In the 1990s, discussions on privatisation took place, especially in fields such as musicals, popular operas and museums, which were able to raise a greater share of funds in the market than the more avant-garde art forms. Entrepreneurial thinking became more important and the accession to the EU in 1995 reinforced the primacy of the economy.
A major political shift was brought about in 2000 with the building of a coalition between the People’s Party (ÖVP) and the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ). The cultural policy objectives of this government have been focussed on outsourcing of public cultural institutions and a reduction of the cultural budget. Greater emphasis has been placed on prestige culture, the creative industries and the promotion of economically oriented projects (such as festivals to increase tourism).
The political auspices changed once more in the following two legislative periods between 2007 and 2017 when the commitment for the promotion of the arts and culture was reaffirmed. The social democratic culture ministers responsible implemented cultural measures, e.g. scholarships for emerging artists and measures to improve the international profile of Austrian artists abroad. To improve the working conditions in the cultural field, efforts to reform the artists' social insurance were stepped up. Further focal issues were the support of the Austrian film industry, the increase of subsidies for federal theatres and museums and an intensified promotion of art and culture education in school.
The refugee crisis and the migration flows since 2015 have made people more apprehensive, hence the Austrian parliamentary elections 2017 resulted in a marked shift to the right. The concept of culture in the government programme of the centre-right coalition was characterised as being more traditional and efficiency and profit-orientation have been increasingly emphasised.
As a result of a government crisis caused by the FPÖ, Austria had a transitional government between May and October 2019. After the general election in September 2019, a government of the People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Greens was formed and the Arts and Culture Ministry was transformed into a State Secretariat under the leadership of the Greens. The main cultural policy objectives for the current legislative period are the worldwide strengthening of contemporary art and culture from Austria; to create the best possible framework conditions for artists and cultural workers as well as for the cultural institutions; enabling innovation, planning security and social support for artists; the promotion of cultural education as a factor of personality development; and strengthening the culture of commemoration (see more in chapter 2.1).
Last update: October, 2019
There is no official organigram available.
Last update: November, 2020
The basis for the administrative structure in the field of culture is the Federal Ministry Act. Since 2014, after alternating ministerial responsibilities in recent decades, arts, culture and cultural heritage were integrated into the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt BKA). Since the transformation into a State Secretariat end of 2019, the art and culture agendas are the responsibility of Division IV ‘Arts and Culture’ of the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport (BMKOES).
The tasks of the Arts and Culture Division are the promotion of contemporary art in Austria and to foster the presence of Austrian artists abroad, the creation of adequate and suitable conditions for artistic and cultural production as well as participation in art and culture and its broad benefit for a majority of people. Further issues are monument protection and cultural heritage as well as EU culture policy and international cultural affairs. The departments of the Arts and Culture Division are:
- Dep. IV/10 European and international cultural policy
- Cluster IV/A Policy for Art, Culture and Funding
- Dep. IV/A/1 Medals and awards, event management, special projects, digitisation
- Dep. IV/A/2 Music and performing arts
- Dep. IV/A/3 Film
- Dep. IV/A/4 Monument protection, heritage, provenance and art restitution
- Dep. IV/A/5 Literature and publishing, Libraries
- Cluster IV/B Investment Management
- Dep. IV/B/6 Visual arts, architecture, design, fashion, photography, video and media arts
- Dep. IV/B/7 Cultural initiatives, folk culture
- Dep. IV/B/8 Investment Management of Federal Theatres
- Dep. IV/B/9 Investment Management Federal Museums and other legal entities
Institutions under the responsibility of the Arts and Culture Division are:
- Austrian Federal Theatres Holding
- Austrian Federal Museums
- Austrian National Library (ÖNB)
- Austrian Film Institute (ÖFI)
- Artothek (art collection which manages the works of art acquired by the Federal authorities)
- Österreichische Fotogalerie (together with the Rupertinum, Salzburg)
Key tasks of Austrian international cultural policy are the responsibility of the Directorate-General for Cultural Policy of the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres, BMEIA). The Cultural Policy Department (Section V) is devided into four divisions:
- V.1 - Policy and legal issues, cultural agreements, cultural budget and evaluation
- V.2 - Organisation of cultural and scientific events abroad
- V.3 - Scientific cooperation and dialogue of cultures and religions
- V.4 - Multilateral cultural policy affairs and sports related matters
Austria's representation in EU and international cultural bodies takes place in close consultation between the BMEIA and Department IV/10 European and international cultural policy of the Division IV ‘Arts and Culture’ of the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport (BMKOES). The BMEIA is involved in the framework of EUNIC (European Union National Institutes for Culture) through its cultural forums and agencies. Austria is an active member of UNESCO.
International cultural policies and cooperation activities are described in the annual Yearbook of Austrian Culture Abroad, published by the BMEIA. The tasks and objectives of the current foreign cultural policy are formulated in the International Cultural Policy Concept.
Other ministries dealing with culture are:
The Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung BMBWF); together with the BMEIA it shares responsibility for:
- centres for Austrian studies and chairs (professorships)
- science and education attachés
- the OeAD (Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research)
The BMBWF is furthermore responsible for the Oskar Kokoschka state prize, which is awarded every two years to a visual artist in recognition of his/her work.
(Cultural) tourism issues are the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (Bundesministerium für Landwirtschaft, Regionen und Tourismus, BMLRT).
The Creative Industries (e.g. architecture, design, TV, advertising etc. as well as the "Evolve" initiative (a supporting programme for the Creative Industries), and bilateral agreements on film are maintained by the Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (Bundesministerium für Digitalisierung und Wirtschaftsstandort, BMDW).
The Federal Ministry of the Interior (Bundesministerium für Inneres, BMI) is in charge of matters of immigration, asylum, visas, residence permits, work permits for artists and for data security. The Ministry is also responsible for the commemoration of the Holocaust and supports the Austrian Holocaust Memorial, a society organising "remembrance-service" and alternative civilian and social services as well as the Mauthausen Memorial.
Last update: November, 2020
The nine Bundesländer (federal provinces) in Austria are: Burgenland (BGL), Carinthia (K), Lower Austria (NÖ), Salzburg (SBG), Styria (STMK), Tyrol (T), Upper Austria (OÖ), Vienna (W) and Vorarlberg (VBG).
The Bundesländer are active in promoting culture in all relevant fields, based on elements of private law. All Bundesländer governments have at least one department that concerns with cultural affairs, in some cases they are associated with science, education or sports. A member of the government generally assumes the political responsibility for this department. Occasionally, some cultural competence is reserved for the governor. The legal basis of the promotion of arts and culture are the respective Cultural Promotion Acts (except Vienna), most of them were implemented during the 1980s. They stipulate the establishment of advisory boards and the publication of a report on the expenditure on the arts and culture.
General cultural responsibilities of the federal provinces include:
- all legal agendas concerning cultural policy (Kulturhoheit, i.e. cultural sovereignty)
- promotion of cultural activities related to the respective Bundesland, often in cooperation with the federal responsibilities (which have different priorities for promotion)
- promotion of activities to preserve the appearance of villages and towns – maintenance of the old town centres
- promotion of contemporary art
- foundations and funds owned by the Bundesländer
- music schools
- theatres, cinemas, events
- heritage, tradition and folk art
- annual festivals, e.g. Salzburg Festival (SBG), Bregenz Festival (VBG), SteirischerHerbst (STMK), Festival der Regionen (OÖ), Ars Electronica (OÖ), Viennale (W), Wiener Festwochen (W), JazzfestWiesen (BGL), TirolerFestspieleErl (T), Glatt&Verkehrt (NÖ) etc.
Current cultural support acts are in Burgenland since 1980, in Lower Austria since 1996, in the province of Salzburg since 1998, in Carinthia since 2001, in Styria since 2005 and in Vorarlberg since 2009. A revision of the 1979 Cultural Promotion Act in Tyrol was agreed in 2010; it is based on an up-do-date and extended concept of culture and it anchors the new cultural trends and developments in law. Upper Austria has had a cultural promotion act since 1987 and started a discussion process in 2007, the outcomes were formulated as cultural concept (2009) and on this basis the cultural-policy funding priorities were defined in the new cultural promotion act in 2011.
In addition to these laws, several Bundesländer – as well as local authorities – set out cultural (development) strategies or guiding principles. Burgenland initiated a debate on culture and the development of guiding principles in 2000, in 2012 the Kulturperspektiven 2020 Leitbild (perspectives for culture mission statement) was amended. Lower Austria presented a culture strategy in 2000 and in 2015 a revised version was developed on a broad basis: the KulturstrategieNeu (new culture strategy) contains the objectives and focal points for the years ahead. About 600 participants were involved in the development of the Kulturentwicklungsplan (KEP) (cultural development plan) of the Land Salzburg. After a year of discussion and development process, the results, the visions, goals and measures were approved by the government of Salzburg 2018. Since June 2019, Upper Austria has been working on a new Kulturleitbild (cultural mission statement).
Subsidy reports are available for all Bundesländer, except Upper Austria, which publishes a chapter "Art and Kultus" in the general annual promotion report of the country.
Last update: November, 2020
Political responsibility for culture at the local level rests with either the city / town councillor or in some smaller municipalities with the mayor. The majority of local government offices, or municipal administrations have cultural departments (often combined with sports, tourism, science and education), which are inter alia responsible for libraries, as well as amateur art, folk culture, traditions and village renewal. Communities with less than 20 000 inhabitants generally have no culture department of their own.
Local level competence includes:
- preservation of the appearance of villages, towns, old town centres
- festivals, especially in provincial capitals such as Bregenz, Salzburg, Linz, Graz (in co-operation with the respective Bundesland and the federal government)
- promotion of urban institutions in the cities (stages, cultural centres, etc.)
- amateur art (amateur theatres, brass bands, folklore groups)
- local museums
- libraries, adult education facilities
In some cities, cultural policy concepts are the basis for policy decisions and developments. The city of Salzburg, for example defined in the Cultural Development Plan II (2015) cultural guidelines and principles, taking into consideration the social and cultural developments over the last years and highlighting the culture policy action framework for the years to come.
In Graz (2003) and Linz (2009) discussions on the sustainability of the European Capital of Culture provided an impetus for further location development.
In Graz a cultural development process was initiated in 2003: the Graz Cultural Dialogue. It is a communication process between artists and those interested in culture, as well as political decision-makers on various special issues, which led to the establishment of a cultural advisory committee (Kulturbeirat), a branch-related specialist advisory system and an annual arts and culture report. The current state of debate and the cultural policy positions are subject of a Living Paper and the evolution of the cultural strategy for the City of Graz will be continued as a work in progress.
The Linz Cultural Development Plan (Kulturentwicklungsplan, KEP) was agreed upon in 2000. From 2011 onwards, a new strategy was worked out in a participative process involving the general public. The new KEP, with guidelines and measures for the cultural future of Linz, was agreed upon in 2013. It considers itself as a binding strategy document, created on an overall basis to ensure the cultural vibrancy of the city for the next 10 to 15 years.
Last update: November, 2020
The Cultural Council (Kulturrat Österreich), a consortium of 11 interest groups and professional associations representing the interests of art, cultural and media workers, is a platform for common cultural policy concerns and objectives. The council represents these issues towards politics, media and administration, and initiates, promotes and publishes debates on cultural, educational, media and social policies (see chapter 7.2.4). Further associations advocate the interests of particular groups, e.g. mica – music austria, an independent, non-profit association to support musicians; the Association of Cultural Mediators, an advocacy group for the professionals in museums; and Kreativwirtschaft Austria as part of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber promotes the interests of the Creative Industries in Austria and the EU.
Many private, non-profit initiatives and a lot of volunteers are active in the cultural field: according to the 3rd Volunteering Report (2019), more than 432 000 volunteers are actively engaged in cultural associations where they work at least about 1.8 million hours per week. Thus, the voluntary cultural sector is the second largest (ranking after sports) in terms of both the number of volunteers as well as working hours per week. Since 2019, the platform freiwilligenweb is active to promote volunteer work and networking.
Important players to promote culture and the arts are private corporations like foundations commercial enterprises, insurances or banks, e.g. Erste Bank, that sponsor art and culture on a significant scale. Since 2016, cultural sponsoring is tax deductible.
Last update: November, 2020
Examples of inter-ministerial cooperation are related to issues of foreign cultural policy (see chapter 1.2.2), cultural diversity (2.5) and intercultural dialogue (2.5.1), architectural policies (2.9), the creative industries (3.5.1) and cultural tourism (3.5.6).
To secure the framework conditions of artistic work, there was a phase (2009-2012) of close cooperation between: the Arts and Culture Ministry; the Ministries of Labour, Family and Youth, Health, Foreign Affairs and Women's Affairs; representatives of the art scene; interest-groups (IGs); trade union and social-partnership representatives; and Inter-ministerial working groups (IMAGs). They have been working on the issues of social security, employment law, unemployment insurance law, social security, women in the arts, support for the arts, copyright and taxation measures and mobility in order to improve the social situation of artists (see chapter 2.3).
Several ministries are involved in implementing and monitoring the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. They work together with other experts and representatives of the Länder and the civil society in the ARGE kulturelle Vielfalt, a working group established within the Austrian UNESCO commission to facilitate the exchange of information and opinion on the convention as well as consulting on the focal points and priorities of its implementation (see chapter 1.4.2).
Annual intergovernmental information meetings (Landeskulturreferentenkonferenz) are held between the nine Bundesländer and the federal government, where important cultural projects or events are discussed. On request, informal inter-ministerial meetings are organised between the various ministries and administrators.
Vienna and the provincial capitals, practically all cities and towns with more than 10 000 inhabitants, are members of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns. Cultural agendas are dealt with by the association's cultural committee. The Association of Austrian Municipalities, which represents the smaller towns, the Association of Austrian Cities is also partner for the government at national and provincial level.
Last update: November, 2020
The federal cultural institutions (Bundesmuseen, National Library and Bundestheater, mostly based in Vienna) provide the backbone of Austria's cultural life. They accommodate valuable world-renowned collections of cultural heritage and art productions at the highest level.
Public responsibilities for cultural affairs have been re-allocated by sector to different institutions or bodies. Depending on the allocated tasks and responsibilities, different models of institutions or partnerships have been adopted.
In 2002, the federal museums (as well as the Austrian National Library) were outsourced and since then managed as private law entities. They are owned by the federal state, who allocates the legally determined public subsidies.
The umbrella organisation of the Austrian federal theatres is the Bundestheater-Holding, (since 1999) owned and controlled by the state. The theatres are legally independent and the holding is responsible for the strategic management and the financial hedging according to the cultural policy mission.
Vienna has numerous other cultural institutions, like municipal facilities (Wien Museum, Kunsthalle), concert halls (Musikverein, Konzerthaus), private theatres (Vereinigte Bühnen Wien, brut Wien, Schauspielhaus), and many galleries, art and cultural centres, stages and venues. Each Bundesland has a publicly funded regional theatre, museums and galleries, e.g. the Landestheater Niederösterreich, the Stadttheater Klagenfurt, Kunsthaus Graz or the LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz. In the cities and towns, there is a wide range of theatre stages as well as numerous self-managed cultural institutions, partly under agreements with different levels of government.
Last update: November, 2020
Table 1: Cultural institutions, by sector and domain
|Domain||Cultural institutions (subdomains)||Public sector||Private sector|
|Number (year)||Trend last 5 years||Number (year)||Trend last 5 years|
|Cultural heritage||Cultural heritage sites (recognised)*1||
37 280 (2013)
|Archaeological sites*||866 (2013)
|Museums||Museum institutions*||368 (2013)
|Archives||Archive institutions*||117 (2013)
|Visual arts||Public art galleries / exhibition halls3||13 (2013)
|12 (2013) Kulturstatistik M2|
|Performing arts||Scenic and stable spaces for theatre||16 (2013)4
Kulturstatistik T1, T2
44 (2018)5 Kulturstatistik T12
|Theatre companies*||na||650 (2018)6|
|Dance and ballet companies||na||na|
|Symphonic orchestras||21 (2019)*7|
|Libraries||Libraries*8||1 372 (2013)
1 221 (2018)
77 (2018) Kulturstatistik B1
141 (2018) Kulturstatistik K1
|Broadcasting organisations9||1 (ORF) with: 12 Radio channels (2012/2016) 3 TV-channels (2012/2016)||Radio: 68 (2019)
TV: 149 (2019)
|Inter-disciplinary||Socio-cultural centres / cultural houses||-||-||364 (2015)
Statistik Austria, Kulturstatistik 2013 and 2018, and as stated above.
na: not available / * no distinction between public and private
1 immovable objects under protection 2 Kulturstatistik 2018 accounts 523 museums (249 public, 274 private) – these are the institutions which participated in the annual survey of STATISTIK AUSTRIA; 769 are all registered museums including public art galleries and exhibition halls; the internet portal museen-in-oesterreich by ICOM counts 775 museums 3 available up to 2013, since then included in the statistics on museums 4 federal theatres, regional and municipal theatres including Vereinigte Bühnen Wien 5 Wiener Privattheater and other theatres, only the institutions which participated in the annual survey 6 independent ensembles; source: Eder, Thomas Fabian. 2018. Independent Performing Arts in Europe: Eight European Performing Arts Structures at a Glance. Berlin 7 own research (via mica Austria and Wildner Kulturmanagement) 8 public libraries vs. academic and special libraries 9 RTR https://www.rtr.at/de/m/Verzeichnisse 10 members of IG Kultur Österreich
Last update: November, 2020
The debate over the status of major cultural institutions started in the second half of the 1980s. A great number of initiatives and demands to grant more autonomy to the cultural institutions and to relinquish state agendas were proposed. The restructuring of the Association of Austrian Federal Theatres is an example, which demonstrates moves towards greater partnership or "divestment" between the public and private sectors: A Federal Act on the Reorganisation of the Federal Theatres in 1998 created the Bundestheater Holding GmbH, owned by the federal state, which has four subsidiaries organised as private limited companies (Burgtheater GmbH, Wiener Staatsoper GmbH, Volksoper Wien GmbH and ART for ART Theaterservice GmbH).
The Bundestheater Holding GmbH has shifted its operative tasks and financial management to the subsidiaries, which can use their respective property free of charge and the theatre directors are fully accountable for their financial management. The ART for ART Theaterservice GmbH offers services in the fields of stage and costume design, storage and transport, building maintenance and stage engineering, ticket sales, as well as services in information technology and data processing. The subsidiaries each have a 16.3% holding in ART for ART. Arts matters are decided upon by the art directors who run the stages jointly with the commercial directors. The companies are supervised by a board, an arrangement which in turn involves the risk that the directors (of Burgtheater, Staatsoper, Volksoper) might be limited in their artistic freedom.
The federal museums also have been undergoing a process of change with regard to their organisational, juridical and economic structures. The most crucial reform has been the decision to grant full legal status to the federal museums and transform them (and the Austrian National Library) into scientific institutions under public law in 1998 – an important step towards more autonomy.
Since 2010, a debate on the national museum policy, planning and collection policy and governance started. The museum regulations were revised and reformulated, and framework objective agreements came into force, setting priorities and sharpening the profiles of the individual institutions to achieve better transparency of the collections and to promote digitalisation. Following an evaluation and the Weißbuch Museumsreform (2017), the Federal Minister for the Arts and Culture announced the establishment of a secretary-general for the federal museums in 2020 to support the chairperson of the museum directors conference. Furthermore, a Bundesmuseen Service GmbH is to be established of which the secretary-general will be the managing director. Due to the government crisis in 2019, this process is currently put on hold and is postponed.
A trend towards outsourcing cultural institutions can also be observed in the federal provinces and municipalities. For example, the Niederösterreichische Kulturholding (NÖKU) brings together more than 30 artistic and scientific institutions under common strategic objectives. Another example is Theaterholding Graz/Steiermark GmbH, which has been responsible since 2004 for the group management of Graz theatres and the strategic management according to the long-term cultural policy and economic objectives of the companies.
Last update: November, 2020
The agendas of international cultural cooperation are distributed over various ministries in Austria. The main actors are the Cultural Policy Department of the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs and Department IV/10 "European and international cultural policy" of the Division IV ‘Arts and Culture’ of the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport (BMKOES). The Federal Ministries of Education, Science and Research, of Labour, Family and Youth, for Digital and Economic Affairs and for Agriculture, Regions and Tourism are also involved in this area; as is the Federal Ministry of Finance, which provides state guarantees for major international museum exhibitions and the Federal Ministry of Justice, concerning copyright and other intellectual property rights issues.
The Cultural Policy Department (Section V) of the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA) consists of four divisions. They are responsible for basic and legal issues, cultural agreements, coordination, the cultural budget and evaluation (Dep. V.1); the organisation of cultural and scientific events abroad (Dep. V.2), scientific-technical and dialogue between cultures and religions (Dep. V.3), and for multilateral cultural policies and sports affairs. The main tasks of international cultural policy are outlined in the Auslandskulturkonzept.
International cultural policy is an important instrument of Austrian foreign policy and aims to position Austria as future-oriented state and focuses on the dissemination of contemporary aspects of cultural and scientific work in Austria. Austria is to be shown as an innovative, creative nation whose achievements in art, culture and science are built upon great traditions, a basis for further innovations. Geographically, Austrian international cultural policy is currently focusing on the neighbouring countries, the Western Balkans and Southeast Europe. Thematic priorities for include film and new media, architecture, dance, women in the arts and sciences and intercultural dialogue.
The Cultural Policy Department of the BMEIA is in charge of a number of Austrian cultural facilities abroad, such as:
- a total of 30 Cultural Fora (in Beijing, Belgrade, Berlin, Bern, Bratislava, Bucharest, Budapest, Brussels, Cairo, Istanbul, Kiev, Ljubljana, London, Madrid, Mexico, Milan, Moscow, New York, New Delhi, Ottawa, Paris, Prague, Rome, Sarajevo, Teheran, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Warsaw, Washington and Zagreb)
- 82 embassies, 26 of them with a Cultural Forum
- 11 general consulates, 4 of them with a Cultural Forum
- 280 honorary consulates
- 65 Austrian Libraries in 25 countries, most of them in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Region and Central Asia
- 10 branches of the Austria Institute, offering German language courses in Belgrade, Bratislava, Brno, Budapest, Krakow, Warsaw, Ljubljana, Rome, Wrocław and Istanbul
Most of the operative budget for international cultural policy is distributed to the cultural forums, which is used for their own annual budget. The programme planning is agreed with the respective ambassador and the responsible department in the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.
Cultural protocols or programmes, with a term of three or four years, regulate the main types of bilateral cultural cooperation, specify the framework conditions and also include agreements on the exchange of experts, cultural activities, groups of artists, ensembles and dance companies. The general and financial provisions are subject to the agreements and protocols negotiated.
Austria has signed agreements on cultural co-operation with a total of 33 states, including 15 EU member states. In addition to these cultural agreements, further agreements on co-operation in the scientific and technical fields have been signed with 19 states. Informal co-operation in the fields of culture and science (“memoranda of understanding”) has developed with three partner states without requiring any underlying written agreement.
Last update: November, 2020
In the field of European and international cultural cooperation and exchange, the Department IV/10 "European and international cultural policy" of the Division IV ‘Arts and Culture’ of the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport (BMKOES) is responsible for cultural affairs in the framework of the EU, the Council of Europe and the UNESCO as well as for bilateral and multilateral cultural exchange together with the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.
Austria has been a member of the European Union since 1995. It participates actively in the Creative Europe (2014-2020), Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ programmes. In addition to different European networks and partnerships (ARGE Alpen Adria, ARGE Donauländer, ARGE Carinthia / Slovenia, the International Bodensee (Lake Constance) Conference, 10 Euregios etc.), Austria participates in 14 programmes in the framework of the 2014-2020 EU Structural and Investment Funds (ESI-Funds). These include seven cross-border programmes (Austria-Germany/Bavaria, the Alpine-Rhine/Lake-Constance/Upper-Rhine, Austria-Italy, Austria-Slovenia, Austria-Hungary, Austria-Slovakia, Austria-Czech-Republic), three transnational programmes (Alpine Space 2014-2020, Central-Europe 2014-2020 and Danube Transnational 2014-2020) and four interregional cooperation programmes (Interreg Europe, ESPON, INTERACT and URBACT). Furthermore, there are two nationwide programmes for investments in regional competitiveness and employment, one of which co-financed by the ERDF and the other by the ESF. In the framework of the Rural Development Programme – financed by ELER – the Arts and Culture Division of the BMKOES together with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT) carried out the initiative Leader Transnational Culture 2014-2020, which supports suitable transformation processes in rural areas by the means of art, culture and creativity.
In the framework of the EU's regional development policy, Austria has developed extensive support programmes in all its provinces with the objective of regional competition and employment, in particular involving arts and cultural projects and their contribution to regional development. Commissioned by the former bmu:kk (the Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture), in 2010-2011, the österreichische kulturdokumentation prepared the study "The Creative Motor for Regional Development: Arts and Culture Projects and the EU Structural Funding in Austria". It includes a survey and analysis of arts, culture and creative industries projects that have been co-funded by the EU in the framework of the programmes of the EU Structural Funds. Austria has been one of the first EU member states to show the volumes and extent of the co-funding of culture by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD): between 2007 and 2010, 534 – mostly cross-border – culture related projects were EU-co-funded in Austria with EUR 78.8 million. Because of the surprisingly large volume and simultaneously the poor accessibility to information, the Arts and Culture Division of the BMKOES has commissioned a handbook for the EU-funding period 2014-2020: At a Glance. EU Regional Supports for Art and Culture (produced by österreichische kulturdokumentation) presents profiles of all current programmes in Austria and offers concrete and practical support for Austrian artists, cultural workers and institutions.
Regarding the Council of Europe, of which Austria has been a member since 1956, Austria is partner of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes since 2011. Ten designated Cultural Routes are crossing the country: the European Mozart Ways, TRANSROMANICA – the Romanesque Routes of European Heritage, the European Cemeteries Route, the Réseau Art Nouveau Network, the Via Habsburg, the European Route of Historic Thermal Towns, the European Route of Ceramics, the European Route of Industrial Heritage, the Iron Curtain Trail and the Routes of Reformation. Austria joined the Faro Convention in 2015.
Another Focus is the Danube region: Austria initiated the Danube-Cooperation-Process together with Romania leading to the EU-Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) in 2011 to further develop the (economic) potential of the Danube, also with regard to cultural cooperation. In the period 2017-2019, Austria has been the lead partner of the Danube Culture Platform – Creative Spaces of the 21st Century, a transnational cooperation project, co-financed by the Danube Transnational Programme. The intention of the project, which involved 19 partners from 8 countries, was to connect culture and tourism by exploring aspects of hidden heritage sites, giving stories to visible and invisible cultural heritage and expanding cultural routes in the Danube region. The project has been documented in a brochure and a follow-up project is being developed.
Since 1948 Austria has been a member of UNESCO and in 1949 the Austrian Commission for UNESCO was established in Vienna. Several ministries are involved in implementing and monitoring the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, ratified by Austria in 2006: the Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA), the Ministry for Art, Culture, Civil Service and Sport, the Ministries of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) and for Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT). Representatives of the ministries join the regularly convening Working Group on Cultural Diversity (ARGE Kulturelle Vielfalt, established in 2004) as well as civil-society actors, artists and their interest groups, cultural organisations, various experts and representatives of the Bundesländer. The task of this commission is to facilitate the exchange of information and opinion on the convention as well as consulting on the focuses and priorities of its implementation.
The National Cultural Diversity Contact Point takes care of the tasks envisaged in the agreement and in the implementation guidelines. Nationally, these are information and advice, coordination and incorporation of all actors as a "clearing office", awareness raising and publicity work as well as taking care of the Working Group on Cultural Diversity. The contact point contributes to drawing up Austrian positions and prepares the report for UNESCO, which is to be drawn up every four years. The latest report was the Austrian Report 2020 on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
International cultural exchange also takes place at provincial and city level and, alongside the promotion of events and projects, includes support for the activities of Austrian artists abroad and places for artists-in-residence. The Bundesländer maintain their own European and external relations and are represented in networks like the Assembly of European Regions.
In 2013, the Cultural Department of the Styrian Regional Government defined Culture International as a core area of it activities, bundling existing initiatives and developing new ones. Support schemes include residencies, scholarships and networking events for Styrian artists abroad (Studio and Film scholarships abroad, Brussels Artist-in-Europe scholarships and ART Styria cultural networking and showcase events), calls for cross-border art and culture projects, residency scholarships for international artists, an advice centre for culture-related funding within the EU, and the establishment of the Thematic Coordination Point on Culture of the Alps-Adriatic Alliance.
The municipalities maintain town-twinning partnerships (like Vienna-Bratislava) and cooperation; the capital Vienna is a member of European and international networks, such as Eurocities, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).
Last update: November, 2020
Numerous arts and culture institutions are involved in transnational cooperation, ranging from major institutions such as museums and theatres, arts universities to small cultural initiatives. Since the 1990s, cooperation projects have been concentrating above all on Central and South-East Europe, but there are international cooperations beyond Europe too. The activities include festivals (music, film, etc.), exhibitions (fine art, architecture, photography etc.), conferences and workshops, information and training programmes, and activities within European and international networks, such as Culture Action Europe, European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA), European Network of Cultural Administration Training Centers (ENCATC), International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts (IETM) and International Council of Museums (ICOM).
The association KulturKontakt Austria/OeAD (KKA/OeAD), founded in 1989, is responsible for cultural cooperation with states in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, which are of historical strategic importance for Austria, especially in order to carry out educational cooperation projects. KKA/OeAD falls under the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. As of 2020, KKA/OeAD has been integrated in the Österreichische Austauschdienst (OeAD GmbH), the central Austrian service centre for European and international mobility and cooperation programmes in the fields of education, science and research.
Private institutions (such as banks and insurance companies) have also started initiatives to make visual art, architecture and design, especially from Central and South-Eastern Europe, accessible to a broader public. Examples are the programmes by the Erste Stiftung or activities of private exhibition houses (including Bank Austria Kunstforum and Siemens Artlab).
The UNESCO Country Report on the Implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in Austria (2016) lists a number of outstanding international cooperation projects in the field of art and culture:
- The European Digital Art and Science Network, launched by Ars Electronica in cooperation with seven artistic and cultural institutions as well as the ESA (European Space Agency), CERN, and the ESO (European Southern Observatory). The network offers artists the chance to spend several weeks at ESA, CERN, ESO, and the Ars Electronica Futurelab. In an annual call, artists from all countries are invited to apply for this residency by proposing innovative ideas situated at the interface of art, science and technology.
- The SMartAt Mobility Portal has been designed to support artists, cultural professionals and creative entrepreneurs living and working in Austria and abroad who seek to be mobile or to cooperate international. It facilitates and encourages cross-border mobility of artists and their projects through provision of professional information on labour law and other relevant issues like taxation, copyright, insurance etc. There is a link to a detailed funding data base with interdisciplinary information on funding sources for international cooperation in Austria. The project is supported by the Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport.
- Since 2012, Vienna hosts the LET’S CEE Film Festival once a year (although it did not take place in 2019). The festival features exclusive high-quality productions from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), including the Caucasus region and Turkey. The festival is accompanied by a support programme (up to 200 side events) emphasising the festival’s role as a place for cultural exchange, reflection, know-how-transfer and networking between film professionals from Austria and the CEE region. In the sphere of media cooperation, the Chinese Zhejiang Radio Television Group (ZRTG) and the Austrian Community TV-GmbH (which operates the community TV station OKTO) signed a comprehensive cooperation agreement in 2015.