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Culture

Budget Squeeze Sets Off Goethe Institute Soul-Search

Budget cuts are forcing Germany's main cultural-outreach organization, the Goethe Institute, to examine its future -- and review its options.

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The Goethe Institute in Pyongyang, North Korea, gives a taste of modern German literature.

The Goethe Institute is one of Germany's key instruments for promoting itself to the outside world. At its network of some 180 sites around the globe, the organization provides information on German culture, society and politics, as well as language instruction.

But belt-tightening at the federal level has been eating into the institute's budget, with cutbacks of around 2.5 percent per year over the past several years. As a result, the group says, it is discussing various ways to keep meeting its mandate. This means searching for new funds as well as looking for new places to save.

"Given the changes in the geopolitical landscape, and the fact that there is less money available, we have to look for ways to secure our future," said a spokeswoman for the Goethe Institute in Berlin.

Budget victim

Das Goethe-Institut in Ramallah

The Goethe Institute in Ramallah

"We are not actively debating closure scenarios" for individual Goethe Institutes, she said. But she acknowledged they could also not be ruled out.

"Our talks are going in all directions," the spokeswoman said. This included searching for new funds -- for example through beefed up partnerships with organizations and companies.

A Goethe Institute spokesperson told the dpa news agency it would present a fixed master plan for the organization's future in May or June.

Reductions in federal spending mean the institute's budget for 2005 is down to 109 million euros per year, including personnel costs. The Foreign Ministry and the Goethe Institute headquarters are discussing the 2006 budget, which may be tighter yet.

Geopolitical changes

50 Jahre Goethe Institut

Visitors look at posters celebrating 50 years of Goethe Institute.

The federal budget tightening merely helped expedite a clearly necessary soul-searching process, the institute told dpa.

After all, the Goethe Institute, which was founded in 1951, developed its sites in a different geopolitical era; currently 43 percent of the Goethe Institute resources go to Western Europe.

But times have changed, and the organization may soon be asking itself if it still makes sense to fund seven sites in Italy when it only maintains two in mainland China.

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