Germany/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model

Cultural policy in Germany is based on a federal model. It is governed by the principles of decentralisation, subsidiary and plurality; a tradition rooted in the nation's historical development (see also chapter 1) and reaffirmed in its Constitution.

All levels of government operate within a Constitutional framework which specifies their respective competence in the cultural field (see  chapter 3.2). They are supposed to cooperate within one another on cultural matters – Kulturföderalismus – by jointly supporting cultural institutions and activities. In reality, there is a high degree of competition among the different federal states (Länder), municipalities, cultural institutions, artists and other intermediaries.

An important objective influencing the development of cultural policy throughout Germany, is to find a balance between public-sector responsibility for ensuring the existence and funding of cultural institutions and programmes without government interference in cultural activities. The Constitution guarantees freedom of the arts (Article 5 (3)) which not only provides the basis for artistic autonomy and self-governing rights of cultural institutions and organisations but also stipulates a form of protection from state directives and regulation of content. Accordingly, the state is responsible for actively encouraging, supporting and upholding this artistic freedom in what is referred to as a Kulturstaat (cultural state).

This approach to cultural policy is primarily supply-oriented. This means that the majority of cultural infrastructure is governed under the rule of law and is supported by the government – mainly by the individual federal states (Länder) and by the municipalities. More recently, there have been discussions concerning the privatisation of public services and institutions which has intensified efforts to promote more efficient arts management. As a result, there is a greater receptiveness to public-private partnership models and a willingness to privatise some cultural institutions.

For a number of years there has been an ongoing debate regarding a greater pooling of resources among the different levels of government. Prompted by the problematic financial situation of many federal states (Länder), the Federal Government has been called upon to co-finance "landmark cultural institutions". A precedent was set for its involvement in the 1990 Unification Treaty calling on the Federal Government to support cultural institutions located in the federal states (Länder) of the former GDR. This is especially important for cultural institutions located in the new capital city, Berlin, which face a plethora of structural and financial problems as a consequence of German unification and which require substantial support from Federal agencies. Along with additional obligations and competences, this Federal involvement gives agencies a greater say in cultural matters at the national level; a development that is contested by some of the federal states (Länder) on constitutional grounds.

Chapter published: 30-08-2016