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Belgium/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.1 Cultural infrastructure: tendencies & strategies

Flemish Community

In Flanders, cultural infrastructure, as it is the case for cultural policy in general, traditionally was the result of the interplay between different government levels: the Flemish Community, the different provinces and municipalities. While the Flemish Community is the main sponsor of the arts centres and Institutions of the Flemish Community, the municipalities are the main sponsor of the expanded network of dozens of cultural centres and community centres across Flanders: larger centres in the eleven largest cities (‘centrumsteden’) and smaller in other cities and villages throughout the region. Some provinces have always been quite active in supporting cultural organisations, and are the main sponsor behind large-scale venues of supra-local importance, such as De Warande (a multidisciplinary venue in Turnhout) or Z33, a centre for design and visual arts in Hasselt, Limburg. In fact, most of these organisations are co-financed by different government levels.

The division of responsibilities between the Flemish government, the provinces and the municipalities used to vary depending on the sector. Some decrees contained clear regulations on the division of tasks, sometimes including financial quotas. This was the case, for example, for the cultural centres, libraries and heritage covenants.

In the current legislature however, the task division between the different government levels is shifting fundamentally.

First, the provinces are in a process in which they lose much of their cultural competence. This is the result of a broader Flemish government decision about "internal reform of the state" (i.e. changes in the division of tasks and competences between the different government levels within the Flemish Region). The new division of responsibilities between the Flemish Community level, the provinces and the municipalities has a huge impact on cultural policy, since the provinces lose their cultural competence (they can no longer give structural subsidies). Provincial culture budgets are in a process of being divided over the Flemish and the local policy levels. This is to be implemented by 2018.

Second, there is a fundamental shift in the relationship between the Flemish Community and the municipalities. Since 1 January 2016, the resources for local cultural policy (as well as for youth, sport and flanking education policy, development cooperation, integration and child poverty reduction) are no longer paid out directly to cultural centres and libraries via the Decree on Local Cultural Policy. They are integrated into the Municipal Fund (which pools all Flemish funding for municipalities). In this Municipal Fund, these sectoral resources are no longer earmarked. Also, the conditions for obtaining those funds and the reporting obligation attached to them have also disappeared.

The responsibility for conducting a local cultural policy is now fully in place by the municipalities. This means that the decentralisation of local cultural policy is also a disconnection: the Flemish Government loses the leverage to impact the mission of cultural centres and libraries. Where the Flemish government had a leading and controlling role so far, it will be more supportive and stimulating in the future.

French-speaking Community of Belgium

The French Community allocates a sizeable budget to the French Community Commission (FCC), which in turn delegates some of its responsibility to Brussels. This FCC is a public administration body dependent upon the Brussels Capital region.

The French Community government has set up a management contract with the RTBF (public service broadcasting) which outlines its mission and annual level of support. This financial support is allocated by the Ministry of the French Community and amounted to 175 653 000 EUR in 2005. The audio-visual department of the French Community manages the funds allocated to the Film and Audio-visual Centre.

The French community has created an independent administrative authority: the Superior Council for the Audiovisual Sector (SCA) which is responsible for regulating the radio broadcasting sector. The SCA has a mission set by the government of the French Community over a five year financial contract period.

The Royal Museum of Mariemont is an establishment with separate management and it benefits from a French Community grant. This museum has antiquities and archaeology collections. The development work of the museum is of scientific, educational and significant cultural interest.

German-speaking Community

Since 1 January 2005, the German-speaking Community has supervisory responsibilities for subordinate authorities, powers which were transferred for the nine German-speaking boroughs by the Walloon Region. The German Community has also entered into a cooperation accord with the Province of Liège.

Chapter published: 16-01-2018

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