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Cultural sovereignty of the federal states

German federalism is also reflected in culture: It is funded regionally and therefore boasts unparalleled diversity.
© dpa

Germany considers itself one of the great cultural nations of Europe. One particular characteristic of the cultural landscape is the notable federal influence, which has led to the extraordinary diversity of cultural offerings and the people behind them. Emphasis on the country’s federal tradition was important to the fathers and mothers of the Constitution, too. The Federal Republic of Germany, founded in 1949, and likewise the reunited Germany from 1990 onwards have both deliberately built on federal traditions and assigned cultural sovereignty – and thus a large portion of cultural funding – to the federal states.

As a result of Germany’s structure born of many former small and medium-sized states and free states, there are now around 142 city and regional theatres, as well as 130 professional orchestras, some of which are linked with publicly governed radio broadcasters. Around a quarter of all the world’s professional symphony and opera orchestras come from Germany. More than 7,200 museums and exhibition venues also provide for an unparalleled museum landscape.

Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media

Theatres and concert venues also receive a large portion of the funding made available for culture. Overall, the cultural sphere received around 10.4 billion euros’ worth of public funding in Germany in 2018. Of this, local authorities contributed around 45 percent, the federal states 40 percent, and the Federal Government 15 percent. The Federal Government focuses on promoting culture abroad and on projects of national importance. This includes around 70 institutions like the Bayreuth Festival, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, as well as commemorative sites from the Third Reich and when Germany was a divided nation, including the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the house that was the venue of the Wannsee Conference, and the Berlin Wall Foundation.

Responsibility for the Federal Government’s cultural funding lies with the Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Monika Grütters. The Federal Government frequently collaborates with the federal states and local authorities. With the aim of further strengthening this “cultural federalism”, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs was set up in 2019, whereby the culture ministers and/or senators of all the federal states are represented. They hold regular discussions with the Federal Government Commissioner on cultural projects of trans-regional importance.