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The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are facing growing calls to clarify their strategy for culture amid deepening cuts in the budget for the sector. Across the country, state institutions and the independent sector are demanding that funds for culture be distributed with greater transparency, and to the worthiest recipients. Pročitajte članak na bosanskom / hrvatskom / srpskom jeziku
A strategy without any money or activity
When will the cultural action plan be completed?
According to the Federation's Minister for Culture and Sport, Salmir Kaplan, the action plan for implementing the Strategy for Cultural Policy is currently the subject of public debate. "After [the debate], we will send our consent with suggestions to the commission in charge of drafting the action plan," he says. "Then the commission would be able to pull together its proposal." Kaplan says the Ministry of Culture and Sport is closely involved in the process. But he could not say when the measures would be finalised. "These matters are conducted by the Ministry of Civilian Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the commission for drafting the action plan," he says. The action plan aims to harmonise the development of cultural policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It seeks to increase participation in culture, and to increase culture's role in economic development.
"The real strategy of cultural policy should examine which segment of culture is it most profitable to invest in. We want... a realistic analysis of the situation that can answer the questions of where we work best, which people are worth keeping, so that people can know what to expect in the next four years...."
"The talk of cultural strategy is a Potemkin village. I don't understand how anyone can even dare talk about cultural strategy in a society that is devastated on all counts, and especially culturally."
The official objectives for developing culture are vague. In 2008, the council of ministers adopted a document entitled the Strategy for Cultural Policy of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The next step was supposed to be the adoption of an action plan for the implementation of the strategy, but this has yet to happen.
At the Federation level, eight cantonal ministers have so far submitted their agreement to the implementation of the action plan. However, responses from two cantons are still outstanding, according to a written statement from the Federation’s culture and sports minister, Salmir Kaplan.
Cultural workers in the Federation are either unaware of the existence of the strategy document and action plan, or unclear about their significance. They insist on the adoption of a new, focused strategy with a special set of criteria.
Jasmila Zbanic, an internationally acclaimed film director and screenwriter, as well as the founder of the Deblokada artist association, is critical of the official approach.
“The cultural policy’s real strategy should be inspecting the situation on the ground and working with artists, cultural managers and people who create culture,” she says.
“If governments at all levels realise that culture is strategically important for Bosnia and Herzegovina, if they appreciate the civilising effect and economic benefits that the whole society derives from culture – only then can we work on a real strategy and action plan.”
In the Republic of Srpska, however, both the Strategy for Cultural Policy and its action plan were adopted for the period between 2010 and 2015.
The Ministry of Education and Culture in Banja Luka claims that the Bosnian Serb entity’s policy is in line with that of the state.
But many who work in culture in the Republic of Srpska claim that the strategy exists “on paper only”. They say no action can be taken when there is no money in the budget.
“The talk of cultural strategy is a Potemkin village,” says Ljiljana Labovic-Marinkovic, referring to the legend from imperial Russia of fake hamlets constructed to give a visiting monarch the impression of thriving rural communities.
“I don’t understand how anyone can even dare talk about cultural strategy in a society that is devastated on all counts, and especially culturally,” she says.