The principles of state cultural policy are worked out in co-operation with the Ministry of Culture, cultural institutions, experts, the third sector and local and county government representatives. The Action Plan of Cultural Policy for 2003-2006 was approved by the Estonian Government in 2003. In 2004 3.2% of the state budget has been allocated to culture. Co-operation with other ministries is increasing, especially with the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also with the Ministries of the Interior, Finance and Economic Affairs and Communication.
The task of the Ministry of Culture is to make sure that necessary and favourable conditions, both legislative and financial, are created for the functioning of culture, heritage and sports from the culture professionals´ as well as the general public´s point of view. Heritage issues are dealt with both by the Ministry of Culture and the National Heritage Board.
A large part of state support is channelled through state cultural institutions as, for example, with the Estonian National Opera, the National Library of Estonia, the Estonian Art Museum, the Estonian National Museum, state theatres, Estonian Radio, and Estonian Television. The second main financing body is the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, whose purpose is to support arts, folk culture, physical fitness and sports by the purposeful accumulation and distribution of funds in the form of grants. Resources come from a percentage of the state budget, annually collected alcohol and tobacco excise tax, gambling tax and the Endowment’s own activities. The Endowment creates an opportunity to also support cultural activities outside state cultural organisations, giving support to private bodies, NGOs and individual artists and projects.
The transnational cultural co-operation of public as well as of private organisations has increased significantly in recent years. The Estonian Ministry of Culture has cultural attachees in Brussels and in Berlin. The Estonian Institute, a non-profit organisation whose task is to spread information about Estonian society, culture and education both at home and abroad acts together with specific cultural fields’ information centres (eg music, literature, contemporary arts, theatre and dance) to promote Estonian culture abroad and enhance cultural co-operation between Estonia and other countries. The Estonian Institute has branch offices in Finland, Hungary, Sweden and France. Almost 100 cultural institutions are members of European and worldwide professional cultural networks.
In today’s society the role of culture has changed and increased. Culture is expected to achieve what economies and policy mechanisms have not been able to. On the one hand, it gives culture broad opportunities, but on the other hand it creates more expectations from society and more responsibility. The challenge for the near future is to find ways of integrating cultural aspects into other fields and creating synergies with other sectors of society.