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Arts and culture suffered in clashes between central and local government over funding and planning.

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Albania/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model

According to the Draft Strategy on Culture, approved by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports (MTCYS), the national cultural policy in Albania is built on European standards and models. The underlying goal of such a cultural policy is to "bring down the walls that isolated Albania from the rest of the world, especially the West". Culture and the arts, in this sense, are considered to be tools that will help to bring democratic development to the country and re-assert its cultural identity within the region and as an integral part of European cultural identity. According to the same document, the implementation of the Strategy will increase the autonomy, competition and multi-dimensional role of arts and culture institutions in the country's civil, democratic and economic life.

However, Albania's cultural life remains highly concentrated within the capital Tirana, with almost every national organisation being based there and their trend is to avoid outreach projects and distribution, which results in poor cultural offering outside of the capital. For twenty years now, unique institutions like the National Opera and Ballet Theatre and the National Theatre (of Drama), notwithstanding their annual subsidies from MTCYS, operate like local institutions, giving performances only in Tirana.  The situation is similar with independent theatre and music projects, festivals, shows and exhibitions. Exceptions occur in certain areas that have a tourism interest.

On the other hand, the process of decentralisation of decision-making and institutional autonomy has slowed down and in some cases has even gone backwards. On 18 November 2010, the parliament passed a new Law on Arts and Culture that will replace the Law on Performing Arts of 2006. The implementation of this Law will increase centralisation and will decrease competence in project selection as the new representatives of the Ministry of Finance will take the seats that now belong to artists in all boards of the national institutions.  

Decentralisation is being regarded as a top priority of Albania's transition towards a market economy. First political steps towards democratically elected municipal officials have been accomplished. Although their budgets are limited, they have a large degree of autonomy. Local cultural commissions have been set up and are attached to local assemblies.

A Law on the Organisation and Functions of Local Government was adopted by the Parliament on 31 July 2000. The main principle of this Law is the autonomy of local government. The present status of local government in Albania and the process of decentralising power are affected by the political, economic, and social aspects of the transition, combined with historic, traditional, social ad psychological factors. Before the transition, local governments had little political autonomy and high levels of social and economic responsibility. The central government body which controlled the activities of local government body was the Interior Ministry. The view that local government should have greater autonomy is gaining notable support.

Decentralisation of culture, as a part of the overall process in the public administration system, has not yet proved productive. City mayors seem more concerned with their authority over local cultural institutions rather than their performance. With the excuse of funding cuts in the central government and subsidies for the local administration, city councils have decreased their support for local arts and culture institutions, in some cases reducing aid to merely wages and salaries and operating costs.

2010 was a year of major friction between local and central government regarding subsidy distribution and taxation, with the government pushing for less local taxes and the local authorities complaining of interference from the government in their rights. Arts and culture were caught in the middle of this clash and suffered both a lack of funding and a lack of co-ordination between the MTCYS and city councils. 

Chapter published: 18-01-2011

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