The Brussels Declaration - Freedom of the Arts

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The Brussels Declaration – For the Freedom of the Arts was initiated by politicians and artists in Brussels at the beginning of July 2018. It serves as a counter-position to the right-wing nationalist appropriation of culture and the arts.

The right to free expression and the diversity and liberty of the arts are threatened in Europe. Right-wing nationalist governments in Austria, Hungary and Poland are already attempting to harness the creative arts for their own agenda through a politics of national isolationism. But in Germany, too, right-wing nationalists are speaking of their desire to “clean up the cultural sector” and eliminate public funding for “leftist and liberal diversity ideology” in the theatre. Hungary, Poland and Austria are thus becoming cautionary tales of a nationalist approach to cultural policy that also stands for restrictions and rollbacks in Germany. The ideological fight against the freedom of the arts poses a threat to our cultural landscape – and thus also to one of the foundations of our society. We will defend ourselves against this.


Austria after six months of the ÖVP/FPÖ: The Culture and Media Minister of the ruling ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) has decreed that his country’s arts and culture funding is to be “oriented towards results”. The aim here is nothing less than the destruction of the independent arts scene. Funding does not go to critical engagement with Austria’s own history, but does go to the conflation of politics, media and business. Since taking office, the Minister has entirely refused to speak with organisations representing arts, culture and media professionals. Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) has begun an overt far-right campaign against the independent journalist Armin Wolf, a news presenter for the public broadcaster ORF. Nicolaus Schafhausen, the Director of the Kunsthalle Wien, is now resigning prematurely from his position. “The effectiveness of art is severely limited in times of nationalistic politics,” Schafhausen said.

Hungary after eight years of Viktor Orbán: Since the beginning of the Orbán era, Hungarian cultural policy has placed great emphasis on the Hungarian national perspective. Politically commissioned art is popular. As part of the new constitution of 2012, the public Hungarian Academy of the Arts was granted unprecedented powers, exclusive infrastructure control instruments, and an enormous budget. Membership in the Academy of the Arts is, however, only open to those who profess their ideological loyalty to the ruling party and the nation, according to art critic and curator Anna Bálint. Thus, only what is considered “agreeable” receives funding.

In the field of literature, far-right authors such as Albert Wass and József Nyirö – the former a convicted war criminal who is hostile to Romanians, the latter an ardent admirer of Goebbels, both of them so-called “national” writers of Hungary – are now promoted, and their books have become assigned reading in schools.

Poland after two years of nationalist conservative Law and Justice: The cultural scene is currently being reconfigured to serve nationalist conservative objectives. Since assuming power, the government has repeatedly driven ideologically inconvenient leaders out of public cultural institutions and sought to prevent exhibitions and performances. According to the ruling PiS (Law and Justice party), “Culture should entertain people and forge a national identity.” When the film “Ida” – which won the 2013 Oscar for best foreign-language film and engages very critically with the theme of Polish anti-Semitism – was broadcast on Polish television, it was subtitled with “historical commentary” addressing its “errors”. Since 2015, the Polish government has been conducting a targeted personnel policy within the Polish National Film Institute, PiSF. The boards of this film funding body have been filled with Law and Justice loyalists who advocate for the nationalist view of history propagated by party head Jarosław Kaczyński.

In an open letter to Polish Culture Minister Piotr Gliński, Wim Wenders (President of the EFA) did not mince words: “We believe in governments having to serve culture and not in culture having to serve governments.” Along with film productions and television, the government has now set its sights on the theatre. A number of theatre directors have already been removed in favour of artistically insignificant replacements. The Law and Justice party is also intervening massively in the work of museums, where it is prescribing – in Warsaw, through a museum head who was installed by court order –  that they serve a nationalist conservative narrative.


Step by step, right-wing nationalists are seeking to destroy our free democratic values and the foundations of our cohesion as a society in Germany and Europe, and representatives of conservative parties are increasingly joining them in this pursuit. They have long recognised that culture and the arts have the potential to be used as tools of their agenda. We will not let them do so!

The movement in Europe that arose from the protests of 1968 – which is the stated target of this attack from the right – breathed new life into universities, theatre stages, art studios and orchestras through its dedication to nonconformity, freedom of thought and political discourse, and its opposition to convention. This movement began the work of unconditionally bringing the inhumanity of National Socialism to light and clearing away the stale remnants of the past that were its institutional representatives in post-war Germany. What replaced them, and has endured ever since, is the struggle for awakening, renewal and diversity. Experiences in the former GDR until the peaceful revolution of 1989 also showed what it means when the arts are abused to political ends.

Politics should not judge art, let alone seek to instrumentalise it through stipulations. Politics must cover the back of the arts. We trust in the strength of the arts and cultural diversity in Europe. Culture emerges through exchange, not through isolation. It needs to be defended, cultural participation needs to be fostered, and the social security of artists needs to be improved. Art is free: it does not have to please us, and it must not be understood as something that serves us. This is the only way that it can unfold its innovative power and keep opening up new perspectives to us.

We will fight for the freedom of the arts! #forthefreedomofthearts  #fürdiefreiheitderkunst  

\\ Initiators:

Erhard Grundl, Member of the Bundestag, spokesperson on cultural policy, Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group

Claudia Roth, Member of the Bundestag, spokesperson on foreign cultural policy, Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group

\\ First signatories:

Hape Kerkeling, comedian, entertainer, actor, singer

Olga and Wladimir Kaminer, writers

Inga Humpe, singer, composer, music producer

Alice Dwyer, actor

Sasha Waltz, choreographer

Feo Aladag, director

Frank Spilker, musician, Die Sterne

Shermin Langhoff, Director of the Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin

Jens Hillje, Co-director of the Maxim Gorki Theatre

Tayfun Bademsoy, actor

Dirk von Lowtzow, musician, Berlin

Paul Frielinghaus, actor

Professor Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation

Sona MacDonald, actor, singer and dancer

Stefanie Könnecke, cultural scholar, Hamburg

Olaf Zimmermann, Managing Director of the German Cultural Council

Tommi Eckart, music producer, composer

Igor Levit, pianist

Lars Lewerenz & Team, Audiolith International GmbH

Bernd M. Scherer, Director, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

Annalena Baerbock, Member of the Bundestag, party chairperson of Alliance 90/The Greens

Robert Habeck, party chairperson of Alliance 90/The Greens

Professor Frank Nonnenmacher, Goethe University Frankfurt

Simone Barrientos, Member of the Bundestag, spokesperson on cultural policy, The Left Party parliamentary group

Harmut Ebbing, Member of the Bundestag, spokesperson on cultural policy, FPD parliamentary group

Moritz Rinke, author

Beathoavenz, DJ and producer team

Matthias Lilienthal, Dramaturge and Director of the Munich Kammerspiele

Sabin Tambrea, actor

Dominik and Benjamin Reding, directors and screenwriters, producers

Udo Samel, actor

Professor Christian Höppner, President of the German Cultural Council

Ingo Schulze, writer

Petra Pau, Member of the Bundestag, The Left Party parliamentary group

Banda Internationale & Comunale, band

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, Member of the Bundestag, chairperson of the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group

Anton Hofreiter, Member of the Bundestag, chairperson of the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group

Hans-Jochen Wagner, actor

Eva Leipprand, author, former mayor of Augsburg

Clemens Schick, actor

Annemie Vanackere, Artistic and Managing Director of HAU Hebbel am Ufer, together with the team

Helga Trüpel, Member of the European Parliament, spokesperson on cultural policy, Greens/EFA parliamentary group in the European Parliament

Dörte Franke, author and winner of the Grimme Award

Cem Özdemir, Member of the Bundestag, Chairperson of the committee on Transport and Digital Infrastructurer, Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group

Stefan Vogelmann, BROKEN SILENCE Independent Distribution

Josef Brustmann, cabarettist

Marc Bauder, director and winner of the Grimme Award

Katja Dörner, Member of the Bundestag, deputy chairperson of the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group

Peter Henze, Artistic Director, Land & Kunst e.V.

Dr Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, Member of the Bundestag, substitute member of the Committee on Cultural and Media Affairs, spokesperson on health and drug policy, Alliance 90/The Greens

Andrea Rothaug, President of the Bundesverband Popularmusik e.V

Hans-Werner Meyer, actor, Member of the Board of the Federation of German Actors

Uta Röpcke, spokesperson, federal working group on culture of Alliance 90/The Greens, cultural scholar M.A.

Oliver Keymis, Member of North Rhine-Westphalian Land parliament, spokesperson on cultural and media policy, Alliance 90/The Greens

Rainer Bode, Managing Director of LAG Soziokultureller Zentren NRW

Karsten Schölermann, Chairman of LiveMusikKomission e.V.

Tabea Rößner Member of the Bundestag, spokesperson on Internet policy and consumer protection, Alliance 90/The Greens

Andreas Bomheuer, formerly Culture Department of the City of Essen

Notker Schweikhardt, Member of the Berlin House of Representatives, spokesperson on cultural and creative industries, Alliance 90/The Greens

Etta Scollo, singer, composer

Henrike Hahn, Member of the executive committee of the Bavarian Land branch of Alliance 90/The Greens

Olaf Kretschmar, CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board of Berlin Music Commission

Henry Arnold, actor and director, spokesperson for the state working group on culture, Alliance 90/The Greens Berlin

Eva Viehoff, Member of the Lower Saxony Land parliament, spokesperson on science and culture, adult education and the labour market, Alliance 90/The Greens

Christoph Nagel, author, Member of the Board of 1910 – Museum für den FC St. Pauli e.V., Hamburg

Sönke Goldbeck, Member of the Board of 1910 – Museum für den FC St. Pauli e.V., Hamburg

Dirk Scheelje, Member of the Board of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Schleswig-Holstein

Uli Plessmann, actor and singer

Nima Pirooznia, Member of the Bremen House of Representatives, spokesperson on cultural policy, creative industries and health policy, Alliance 90/The Greens

Günter Schiemann, Managing Director of LAG Soziokultur Schleswig-Holstein e.V.

Ute Fürstenberg, graphic designer and art manager

Christoph Fisser, Member of the Board of Studio Babelsberg AG

Robert Forster, musician

Anja Witt, Atelier Witt

Ina Keßler, Managing Director of Initiative Musik

Heinrich Schafmeister, actor, Treasurer of the Federation of German Actors

Theresia Bauer, Minister of Science, Research and the Arts, Baden-Württemberg

Petra Olschowski, Culture Secretary, Baden-Württemberg

Dr Wolfgang Zumdick, Research Consultant, Department of Arts, Oxford Brookes University

Anders Petersen, Chairman of the Board of the Federal Association of Visual Artists, Schleswig-Holstein branch

Désiree J. Vach, Chairwoman of the Board of Association of Independent Music Companies, Snowhite Records

Daniel Wesener, Member of the BerlinHouse of Representatives, spokesperson on culture, Alliance 90/The Greens

Uwe Kosubek, actor, narrator, director

Dr Harald Schmid, political scientist and historian, Ahrensburg community foundation Schleswig-Holstein memorials

Michael Kellner, Secretary General of Alliance 90/The Greens

Susanne Degener, cultural consulting

Dr Hanneke Heinemann, art historian

Renate Lefeldt, photographer

Gernot Zeitlinger, educator, chairman of the Rhineland-Palatinate branch of the Montessori Association

Dr Christian Walda, art historian and museum curator

Ulrike Suhk, graphic designer, Agentur idee-fix

Eduardo Fernández-Tenllado Ramminger, editor, photographer

Tobias Bacherle, Chairman of the “dit is schade e.V.” festival

Daniela Weiß and Annekatrin Grimm, Buchhandlung Montag bookstore, Berlin

Lutz Herrmann, theatre and event technology specialist

Jessica Kordouni, filmmaker, spokesperson on cultural policy, Alliance 90/The Greens group, Kiel City Council

Manfred Kern MdL, Cultural policy spokesman of the parliamentary group Bündnis 90/Die Grünen Baden-Württemberg

Aram Lintzel, cultural policy adviser, Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group, independent author


Contact information:

Erhard Grundl, Member of the Bundestag

Claudia Roth, Member of the Bundestag



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