Finland/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.1 Overview of main structures and trends

According to the Law Defining the Structure and Functioning of the Finnish Central Government (the Council of State / ministries), all the ministries are responsible for international co-operation within their policy domains. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for international affairs in many areas, which makes it a joint – and even often the main - actor in the international policy domains of other ministries including significant international treaties and commitments to new international responsibilities. The new tasks of the Ministry cover also such inter-ministerial policy areas as international trade and investments, development co-operation and development aid, humanitarian aid, co-operation with neighbouring regions, and Nordic co-operation. Among the tasks of the Ministry are also relations with international media and cultural relations in respect to the Ministry's own activities and initiatives to make Finland better-known internationally. In other words, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has its say in practically all of the main forms of international cultural co-operation. In the case of the Ministry of Education and Culture, this means first that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shares with it the responsibility for cultural agreements and bilateral treaties.

Secondly, the post-1989 geopolitical changes and the membership in the EU have increased the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in transnational regional co-operation with neighbouring countries. It is responsible for co-operation with the Baltic Sea and Barents Sea regions and the activities within the policy initiative and framework of the Northern dimension. On the other hand, although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs finances some of these activities, the substantive issues, like which projects are initiated and financed and how they are managed, are left to other ministries. Finnish experts, international lawyers as well as professional diplomats have often had a significant role in the search for solutions to ethnic conflicts and human rights issues. Finnish experts have had an important role e.g. in WIPO's efforts in the renovation of the international copyright agreements and in the effecting of UNESCO's new Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Most recently, Finland is active in the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, with Finnish expert Jukka Liedes acting as the vice-chair of the committee.

Within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Culture, matters relating to international cooperation are prepared by the Ministry’s Division for Art Policy, Division for Cultural Policy, and the International Relations unit. The main function of the International Relations unit is the monitoring, planning and co-ordinating international bilateral and multilateral relations jointly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The formally established bilateral relations (at present with 47 countries) are based on bilateral cultural agreements, cultural exchange programmes / memorandums of understanding and bilateral funds; the multilateral relations include ratification of all pertinent international conventions and agreements and Finnish membership in international organisations such as UNESCO, the Council of Europe, ITU and WIPO. Since the 1970s, Finland has been especially active in UNESCO and the Council of Europe's main programmes and projects.

A strategy for Cultural Cooperation in the Barents Region 2014-2018 was drafted in 2014. For more information see http://www.minedu.fi/OPM/Julkaisut/2014/Cultural_Cooperation_in_the_Barents_Region.html?lang=fi&extra_locale=en.

Most of the budget allocations of the Ministry of Education and Culture for international cultural co-operation are channelled to these bilateral and multilateral activities. Export of cultural products and services has also been a major policy issue from the beginning of 2000s.   

Nordic co-operation

Nordic co-operation has a special position in Finnish international co-operation policies. Finland is represented in the cultural and educational committees, working groups and steering groups responsible to the Nordic Council of Ministers, and participates in the Nordic Cultural Fund, which is administered by the Secretariat of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Copenhagen. Finland has bilateral Cultural Funds with all the other Nordic countries: Iceland (1974), Norway (1979), Sweden (1960) and Denmark (1981). These cultural funds are administered by the Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre at Hanasaari (Helsinki). The Ministry of Education and Culture allocates the Finnish share of funds for Nordic co-operation. In the field of cultural co-operation, mobility of artists and cultural workers, as well as the role of creative industries in overall economic development of the region was emphasised. The aim was also to strengthen cooperation between the sectors.

Finland held the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2016. During the presidency year, Finland carried out the cultural sector programme based on the five themes of the Nordic Council of Ministers Strategy for Nordic Cultural Co-operation 2013 2020. Within the scope of these themes, Finland organised joint projects between the Nordic countries, in cooperation with various operators in the arts and culture fields.

Five seminars were organised during 2016.

  • The sustainable Nordic region: The Sustainable thinking in art policy seminar is organised in cooperation with the Nordic Culture Point, which operates in Finland.
  • The creative Nordic region: The Architecture as the underlying structure in Nordic culture and wellbeing seminar is organised in cooperation with the Architecture Information Centre Finland. The seminar concentrates on the significance of architecture for Nordic competitiveness and wellbeing.
  • The intercultural Nordic region: The Speaking is Silver seminar concentrates on the freedom of cultural expression. The seminar is organised in cooperation with Hanasaari and UNESCO.
  • Young people in the Nordic region: SILLAT – BRIDGES – BROAR – BROER is a joint youth conference by the Nordic countries, concentrating on the participation and wellbeing of young people in the Nordic countries, organised in cross-administrative cooperation with NORDBUK and Hanasaari.
  • The digital Nordic region: TAKO, the joint Nordic seminar on the recording and collection cooperation network of various museums. The seminar is organised in cooperation with the Finnish National Museum.

Finland hosted the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on 3-4 May 2016. The conference was also one of the main events of the Finnish presidency year. In addition, a seminar on the freedom of cultural expression was organised on 2 May in anticipation of the main event.

To promote mobility of artists and cultural workers the Nordic Council of Ministers established in 2007 a Nordic Cultural Point to run mobility programmes and provide information. It was evaluated in 2010 by external experts who found its work useful and important in the region. http://www.kulturkontaktnord.org/. The organisation has three main areas of activity. It provides the secretariat function for three Nordic funding programmes: the Culture and Arts Programme, the Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture and NORDBUK (advisory and coordinating body for child and youth issues). It also maintains a cultural centre and library in Helsinki and is responsible for the profile of cultural co-operation in the Nordic region and beyond.  

Finnish art and culture are promoted by centres in Finland and by cultural institutions abroad (see  chapter 3.4.2).

The membership of the EU and the globalisation processes have decentralised administration and increased the independence of expert bodies, regional organisations and municipalities in international cultural co-operation. Thus, the EU Media Desk is located within the Finnish Film Foundation and it functions as an EU Contact Point for the media section of the Creative Europe programme. From 2017 onwards the Finnish National Agency for Education will be responsible for student exchange programmes and functions as an EU Contact Point for the culture section of the Creative Europe programme. During 2016 CIMO, the Centre for International Mobility, formerly responsible for international exchange programmes and functions, was merged with the National Agency for Education.

The National Board of Antiquities is responsible for international co-operation in the cultural heritage sector. The art universities, research centres and the main cultural and art institutions have their own cultural co-operation relations and are well linked to their respective European and wider international networks (European Theatre Convention, European Theatre Union, ITI, IMC, ICOM, ICOMOS, ELIA, ENCATC etc). The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design nominated Helsinki as World Design Capital 2012. http://www.wdc2012helsinki.fi/en. The government made a decision-in-principle (September 2010) to finance the event with EUR 5 million (see also chapter 4.2.3).

The municipalities have their own town twinning programmes and the main cities belong to network organisations such as the Union of Baltic Cities and Eurocities. The city of Turku was nominated in 2007 as the European Capital of Culture 2011, concurrently with Tallinn. The Finnish government supported the event with 17.3 million EUR, the city of Turku with 17.8 million EUR and rest of the 55.5 million EUR came from different sources, including 1.5 million EUR of EU funding (the so called Melina Mercouri Prize). This budget covered the years 2008-2012. The main themes of the year were well-being, internationalism and the export of creative enterprises and culture. http://www.turku2011.fi/en/2011-foundation.

According to a report compiled by the Turku School of Economics at the University of Turku, the Capital of Culture year brought to Turku and the wider region of Southwest Finland some EUR 260 million, and an increase in employment of 3 300.

In Finland, the European Union is financing the new Structural Fund programme for the years 2014-2020 with 1.3 billion EUR, together with national public funding this amounts to nearly 2.6 billion EUR. The Finnish programme, co-ordinated by the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy, is called Sustainable growth and employment. The programme implements the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy with five policy lines (EU funding in brackets, matching amount of national funding available for all policy lines):

  • Competitiveness of SMEs (ERDF, 328 million EUR);
  • Production and utilisation of new knowledge and competencies (ESF, 435 million EUR);
  • Mobility of employment and the work force (ESF, 234 million EUR);
  • Education, professional skills and life-long learning (ESF, 164 million EUR); and
  • Social inclusion and poverty reduction (ESF, 99 million EUR).

See also chapter 4.2.3 and chapter 8.1 for more information on the plans of the Ministry of Education and Culture for the new Structural Fund Programme.

Associations of artists and cultural centres are also well linked to European networks (IETM, International PEN, European Jazz Network, TransEurope Halles, European Network of Cultural Centres etc.)


Chapter published: 24-04-2017


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