Julian Nida-Rümelin, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s adviser for culture and media, has finally succeeded in establishing a national-level cultural foundation for Germany. Despite a tight budget, Finance Minister Hans Eichel recently approved DM25 million for the fiscal year 2002, a start-up amount that Nida-Rümelin hopes will eventually increase to DM75 million annually. The project, which dates back to the 1970s, has faced resistance from federal states that fear a loss of power and from those who mistrust any centralization of culture in the wake of Fascism. But the lack of a national culture foundation—and a single federal culture minister—has posed administrative problems for Germany in recent years. The national government, to offer one telling example, has had to negotiate European Community policies with each of its sixteen states individually.

The chancellor’s first appointed adviser for culture and media, Michael Naumann, reinitiated the project last year but left his post before a fund could be established. Unlike Naumann, who favored the restitution of national treasures lost in World War II, Julian Nida-Rümelin wants to promote "contemporary art in an international context.” In contrast to the standard way of funding art and culture in the US and Europe, the new foundation will support individual projects instead of subsidizing established institutions. Funds will be allotted to new-media pilot projects, international exchanges involving German and foreign artists, and even project proposals coming from outside the country.