Belgium French-speaking Community

†‡ˆ beziehungen e.V. Institut für Auslands- Foreign Cultural Policy in Europe Belgium – French-speaking Community By Marie-Henriette Timmermans, De...
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†‡ˆ beziehungen e.V.

Institut für Auslands-

Foreign Cultural Policy in Europe

Belgium – French-speaking Community By Marie-Henriette Timmermans, Delegate of the Walloon Community at the Belgian Embassy in Berlin I


A federal country, Belgium is divided into 3 regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) and 3 linguistic communities (Flemish, French and German-speaking communities), each with their own competence for self-governance. Regions are responsible for matters relating to the territory, including the economy, environment, housing and employment. Communities are responsible for culture, education, some aspects of health and welfare, language use and intercommunity co-operation. Since 1993, Regions and Communities enjoy selfgovernment in the field of international co-operation and are authorized to engage in international agreements and to sign treaties with foreign governments at the local, regional and national level. Attendance at the EU’s Council of Ministers and international bodies is undertaken by each Community’s ministers on a rotating basis. The Federal state is responsible for cultural institutions of national importance including the Monnaie Opera House, the National Orchestra, the Paleis voor Schone Kunsten/Palais des Beaux Arts, the Royal Museum of Art and History (which includes the Musical Instrument Museum), the Royal Museum of Central Africa, the Museum of Ancient & Modern Art, the Royal Institute of Artistic Heritage, the General Archives and the Royal Library, as well as for certain policy areas related to culture, including labor law, social security, taxation and intellectual property rights. Regions are responsible for monuments and landscapes. The basic principles to be followed in cultural policy by the three communities regarding the protection of ideological and philosophical minorities are laid down by the Cultural Pact Act of 1973 which is administered by the Federal state. It also sets out a compulsory consultative process, including the setting up of Councils or Commissions, to ensure that all political, ideological, philosophical and minority voices are heard and integrated into policy development and implementation. A permanent national commission ensures that guarantees contained within the Pact, including the rights of ideological and philosophical minorities, are respected by all federated bodies. Interministerial co-ordination between federal state and federated bodies or between these last takes place on a regular basis in a number of fields related to foreign relations affairs, culture, education, employment, environment, media, mobility, tourism, etc. Each Region and Community is organized on the basis of a legislative power (Council) and an executive power (Government headed by a minister-president). In Flanders there is one government for both the Region and the Community which also covers the Dutch-speaking population in Brussels. The French-speaking area is represented by the Walloon Region and the French-speaking Community which also covers the French speaking population of Brussels (90% of this population), each with its government and its council.


A large part of the cultural co-operation activities developed by the French-speaking Community and the Walloon Region involve the promotion of French as an international language, including university co-operation activities and the participation in major international Francophone events, including many film and theatre festivals and book fairs. II

Structures, Competences, Institutes

1. Cultural competences at the Community and Region level Cultural competences in the French-speaking Community are entrusted to the Ministry of the French-speaking Community, which includes departments for audiovisual and media and for arts education, as well as a cultural administration comprising one inspectorate general and five departments (inspectorate general; performing arts; books and literature; heritage and plastic arts; and youth and training). Some cultural competences are ensured by the Regions, whether by the French Community Commission in Brussels (COCOF) or the Departments of Town Planning and Housing and Heritage of the Walloon Region. 2. The CGRI-DRI Surveillance of bilateral relations is undertaken by a joint body (Commissariat général aux Relations internationales – Division des Relations internationales, CGRI-DRI), bringing together efforts by the Walloon Region, the French-speaking Community and the French Community Commission in Brussels (COCOF). Both the General Commissioner for International Relations (CGRI) and the Division on International Relations (DRI) were established in the early 1980s, by the French-speaking Community and the Walloon Region respectively. They merged in 1996. A 1998 agreement rendered CGRI also accountable to COCOF. Implementation of international policies is therefore carried out by a single body, which responds to guidelines established by the ministries competent in each field. It also undertakes activities for the promotion and dissemination of culture and the arts created in the French-speaking Community, for multilateral action with UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the European Union (and associated bodies), with industrialized or otherwise Frenchspeaking countries, for more strategic action towards countries of the South, and for the reinforcement of youth exchange policies. The French-speaking Community also has its own delegation within the summits of French-speaking Heads of State. The activities of CGRI-DRI are supplemented by 14 delegations abroad, including 6 in the countries included in this study (Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Bucarest, Prague, Warsaw) and 7 offices in Third World countries, which are generally devoted to general diplomatic activities and French tuition and education. Two cultural centers exist in Paris and Kinshasa as well. One of the delegation is a sectorial one and is devoted to the audiovisual and world trade issues. CGRI and the Directorate General for Culture of the Ministère de la Communauté française Wallonie-Bruxelles have set up 4 sectorial agencies committed to undertaking international relations: § the Bureau International Jeunesse, § Wallonie-Bruxelles Images (audiovisual, cinema, multimedia), 2


§ Wallonie-Bruxelles Musiques and § Wallonie-Bruxelles Théâtre. 3. National Cultural Institutes The Center Wallonie-Bruxelles in Paris was established in 1979 and develops promotional activities among French media and cultural policymakers. It also undertakes co-operation actions with other French-speaking countries and French national and independent cultural institutions. General delegations Wallonie-Bruxelles are entrusted with general diplomatic activities, their remit also including culture, though delegations in Brussels and Paris are required to work less in this area. Delegations are each responsible for a number of countries – Bucarest’s remit includes Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova; Warsaw’s, which was inaugurated in October 2002, refers to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland; Prague’s includes the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia; and Berlin’s delegation, which opened in 1999 and since 2001, is based at the Belgian embassy, focuses on Germany. Regular partners in cultural activities include national universities and European Commission delegations to the accession countries. Finally, the delegation in Geneva is entrusted with carrying out bilateral co-operation with, among others, the Italian region of Val d’Aosta. 4. Documents and Legislation The basic principles regarding the protection of ideological and philosophical minorities in the cultural policy in Belgium to be followed by all 3 communities are laid out in the Cultural Pact Act of 1973 which is administered by the Federal state. Official inter-community co-operation takes place between the French-speaking Community and the Germanspeaking Community, and between the Flemish Community and the German-speaking Community. At present, there is no co-operation agreement between the Flemish and French-speaking Communities. A charter is expected to be signed in the near future which would initiate formal co-operation between the French-speaking Community, Walloon and the Brussels Regions. A decree establishing CGRI as a public organization under the framework of the Frenchspeaking Community was enacted in 1982. The Declarations on the Community’s Policy (Déclarations de politique communautaire) of 1995 and 1999 establish the French-speaking Community’s international policy as being closely coordinated with the Walloon Region and focusing on two geographic poles, Europe and the Francophonie. A 1998 cooperation agreement between the French-speaking Community and COCOF, states that both shall coordinate activities and share costs when simultaneously deciding to take part in international events. Co-operation between the French- and German-speaking communities in Belgium is enshrined in a 1995 agreement, which replaced a previous document of 1984. The agreement establishes that co-operation shall exist in all areas where the two communities enjoy competences, not least culture, education and youth. No co-operation agreement currently exists between the French- and Flemish-speaking communities.




Co-operation with other European countries

1. Bilateral Agreements Bilateral cultural relations of the French-speaking Community in Belgium are bound both by those cultural co-operation agreements signed and ratified by the Kingdom of Belgium before 1993 and those co-operation agreements signed by the French-speaking Community itself, often involving also the Walloon Region, with foreign countries. Constitutional changes introduced in 1993 (cf. article167 of the Constitution) first allowed Belgian communities and regions to sign international treaties dealing with those areas where they hold exclusive competences, including culture. Both the French-speaking Community and the Walloon Region have opted for a rather limited number of partner countries, the selection of which is generally made under the following criteria: § Proximity; § European geopolitical issues, including enlargement, the building of a Euro-mediterranean space and the signing of association agreements by the EU and its member states. § Members of the Francophonie and the promotion of French language; § Historic relations and previous co-operation. § Economic co-operation prospects. § Size of partners, preferably similar to that of Wallonia-Brussels. § Attitude of partners, that is their willingness effectively to co-operate and recognition of the international competences of federated bodies in Belgium. § Complementarity under multilateral programs. By applying such criteria to countries, three types of co-operation are obtained. Firstly, cooperation involving all the fields wherein the French-speaking Community, the Walloon Region and COCOF hold competences. That is the case of European countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Secondly, co-operation limited to only a few sectors, the quality of sectorial engagements sometimes leading to widened co-operation. This includes countries such as Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Thirdly, individual actions, potentially becoming the first step towards sectorial co-operation as they grow in width and intensity, are developed with a range of countries including Cyprus, Malta and Norway. The objectives of bilateral relations are integrated within those of the Frenchspeaking Community, the Walloon Region and COCOF’s global international policy: § Promoting Wallonia-Brussels as bodies capable of undertaking international activity and as creative areas. § Supporting Wallonia-Brussels’ creative agents. § Defending interests and values and making the best use of competences. The latter point focuses on co-operation as originally defined in two basic guidelines: § Defence of the values and interests of each party; § In a spirit of co-operation and mutual aid. 4


Thus co-operation intends to extend co-operation among governments through the provision of support to co-operation initiated by other agents. By now, CGRI-DRI manages 55 bilateral co-operations for the french-speaking community, 35 for the Walloon Region and 10 for the COCOF. Several of these co-operations are common to 2 or 3 of those entities. Relevant co-operation agreements include those signed in recent years with Bulgaria (1998), the Czech Republic (2001), Estonia (2001), France (1999), Hungary (1997), Latvia (2002), Lithuania (2002), Luxembourg (1999), the Netherlands (2002), Poland (1996), Romania (1998) Slovakia (2001)and Slovenia (2003). In the meantime, old co-operation agreements signed by the Kingdom of Belgium with several West European countries remain valid, and provide the background to meetings of bilateral commissions. This is the case of existing agreements with Austria (1952), Denmark (1957), Finland (1979), Germany (1956), Greece (1954), Ireland (1980), Italy (1948), Norway (1948), Portugal (1955), Spain (1958), Turkey (1959) and the United Kingdom (1946). While co-operation arrangements under these agreements exist, they may often lead to little actual joint activity, particularly in those cases where no co-operation programs are currently in force (eg. Sweden, Norway, Denmark). The last joint meeting between Belgium’s French-speaking bodies and the German government took place in 1994, and one is awaited since 1998, yet some activities have been coorganised in the meantime. No meetings have taken place either with Denmark or Turkey since 1992, or with Greece, UK or Ireland since 1997, whereas information is unavailable for Norway . A new co-operation program with Luxembourg is expected in 2003. Table 1. CGRI-DRI’s budget for bilateral co-operation in Europe Co-operation in the fields of science, education and culture. Per country, 2001 (in EUR). With corresponding budget lines. Country Austria Bulgaria Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Netherlands

Budget (EUR) 9,915.74 114,856.41 103,297.23 123,946.68 32,374.89 361,775.80 129,524.36 2,330.20 103,594.70 1,908.78 152,280.99 15,716.45 18,344.12

Budget lines included CGRI missions CGRI missions and scholarships, DRI CGRI missions and scholarships, DRI CGRI missions CGRI missions and scholarships CGRI missions and scholarships, COCOF CGRI missions and scholarships CGRI scholarships CGRI missions and scholarships, DRI CGRI scholarships CGRI missions and scholarships, DRI

CGRI missions and scholarships CGRI missions and scholarships 5


Country Budget (EUR) Budget lines included Norway Poland 287,686.06 CGRI missions and scholarships, DRI Portugal 43,629.26 CGRI missions and scholarships Romania 335,490.41 CGRI missions and scholarships, DRI Slovakia 61,080.96 CGRI missions and scholarships, DRI Slovenia Spain 165,915.14 CGRI missions and scholarships, COCOF Turkey 11,774.94 CGRI missions and scholarships United Kingdom 50,481.04 CGRI missions and scholarships, COCOF Source: Self elaboration, from data provided by CGRI-DRI. Recent years have witnessed an increase in the external demand for co-operation agreements, as can be seen particularly among central and East European countries. This should call for an increase in budgetary resources for bilateral co-operation. Also as a result of this, CGRI-DRI has sought to focus co-operation activities on one or two priority areas per country. In the case of the EU’s accession countries, an extra effort is made on the grounds that the future of the French language in Europe is partly dependent on linguistic choices made by forthcoming EU members. Activities in 2002 have also included CGRI-DRI’s management of international visits by the minister-presidents of the three federated bodies, often including signing agreements, opening a Delegation Wallonie-Bruxelles or holding a cultural event. Visited countries included Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and France. 2. Foreign national cultural institutes All EU countries and pre-adhesion countries have cultural ‘services” in Belgium. Cultural centers like the British Council, France’s Centre Culturel, the Goethe Institut, etc. have defined cultural missions in Belgium. Moreover, regional representation offices (by, for instance, the German Länder) are entitled to pursue cultural missions in Belgium. The degree of implication of foreign European cultural structures in the local cultural life is low. Most of them have promotional goals of their national cultural goods or venues. Exception to this can be found in non-governmental organisms (for instance, the Centro Galego de Bruselas), but they are extremely rare. Cultural services at embassy level or regional representation offices have undertaken some actions in the cultural field in Brussels in recent years, yet generally at a very level and without any clearly defined cultural policy (for instance the French Embassy). The presence of the European Commission and the European Parliament in Brussels has attracted many if not all governmental cultural institutions from EU and accession countries. However, such institutions tend to lobby the EU’s policy and cultural programs, rather than being interested in or having a mission to implement cultural actions in Belgium. A bilateral program between Belgium and other European countries, Europalia, has been held since the late 60’s. This festival brings a visual arts exhibition and performing arts performances to Belgium on an annual basis. Europalia emerges from a bilateral co-operation agreement between Belgium and the host country, which contributes a part of the 6


budget. This type of program, which is spread over the year, can be said to have an impact on Belgian audiences, though it seems to have run out of dynamism of late. Paradoxically enough, Somalia’s Embassy has been for the past two years one of the most active diplomatic institution in Belgium, after war and financial problems forced official staff to leave its headquarters. The building has been revived by a group of squatters and cultural activists, who now produce the most attractive cultural program by far of all foreign official institutions in Brussels. IV

Problems and perspectives

‘More Europe – Foreign Cultural Policies in and beyond Europe’ To outline this approach , we will make use of three question directly bearing upon this theme. § Is it appropriate for Europe to project its cultural heritage beyond its borders ? § Is this projection a priority component of an international relations approach ? § Do the existing co-ordination mechanisms between the actions of the Commission and those of the Member States efficiently work ? As for the first question, I can provide a positive answer. The EU must seek to assert its cultural presence abroad, not only because this springs from its eagerness to become a global actor on the world stage, but also because it is its duty to convay a number of common values (cultural and linguistic diversity, tolerance, equality of man and woman, etc ...). As for the second question, I also have a positive answer, mainly for the same reasons as above. And also particularly because the implementation of a policy of international relations implies the designation of target countries and people and a selection of themes that may differ from those deriving from pure cultural logic. The answer to the third question is negative. Various instances of failure can be brought forward. A number of projects were born out of the consultation between the Directorates General of international cultural relations. And several presidencies have tried to involve the Commission and to make use of the provisions to this effect included in the relevant strand of the Culture 2000 program. In spite of, at times, the personal dedication of the Director General for Education and Culture of the European Commission, the enforced procedures have caused good intentions to abort. Those failures have various causes, such as § compulsory annual themes (not properly matching geopolitical objectives) § the nature of the committees charged with the eligibility of the projects, who are most certainly appropriately competent as far as purely cultural intraeuropean projects are concerned, but totally inadequate for projects such as those as are contemplated here. It is therefore necessary to conceive an autonomous strand of the program allowing to articulate (as well in Brussels and in the respective capital cities as well as in the field) the departments of the Commission and those who, in the Member States, are responsible for international cultural relations.