(Berlin, December 27, 2023)
In a decision made in an expedited procedure on December 21, 2023, the Administrative Court of Berlin provided its preliminary assessment – not its final determination. This decision bears far-reaching implications for the cultural scene in Berlin and raises urgent questions regarding future public funding for culture and the handling of nonprofit cultural institutions.
Lawyer, Myrsini Laaser, comments:
“It is noteworthy that the judge admitted that many aspects also advocate for an assurance of funding. So, much indicates a binding statement, but on the other hand, there are aspects suggesting less binding commitment, and the judge then opted for the non-binding approach.”
Particularly surprising in the court’s decision is the establishment of the sum in dispute, which starkly contrasts with the pledged funding for the years 2024 and 2025, which
amounts to significantly higher sums. The preliminary assessment in the expedited procedure and the associated low valuation of the sum in dispute raise questions regarding
the appreciation of cultural work and the financial necessity acknowledged through the funding commitments of the Senate for Culture. In response, on December 21, 2023, Oyoun
filed a complaint against this assessment with the Higher Administrative Court. It is crucial to emphasize that the decision in the expedited procedure is not a final or legally binding determination but rather a preliminary assessment. This underscores the ongoing uncertainty and urgent challenges facing the cultural scene.
Oyoun only received a written rejection from the Senate for Culture regarding their funding for 2024 on December 22, 2023, after multiple inquiries, without any explanation except for an announced re-tendering of the venue. This approach and its mysterious background are not only viewed critically by Oyoun, as highlighted by comments from rbb on December 21:
“In early November, Culture Senator Joe Chialo (CDU) commented on the incidents and emphasized the intention to review Oyoun’s funding as a matter of principle. ‘It is my intention to swiftly reach a conclusion here and take action,’ he stated. Later, the Senate Department for Culture contradicted this representation: ‘Oyoun’s funding is expiring at the end of the year as per regular process. The statement by Oyoun suggesting that this is due to an event by the ‘Jewish Voice’ is not accurate,’ was the response to an inquiry by rbb|24.”
This apparent contradiction in the statements between the Culture Senator and the Senate Department raises concerning questions regarding transparency and consistency in the governmental decision-making processes in Berlin.
The unexpected and last-minute rejection of funding by the Culture Senate, without explanation, has plunged the Oyoun team into deep uncertainty. This situation forces
projects to be cancelled or revised and budgets to be slashed, thus endangering the necessary stability for cultural work. Additionally, due to the abrupt halt in funding and other factors such as the ongoing lawsuit, precarious residency status, and general uncertainties, all staff members, freelancers, fellows, apprentices, and interns are immediately threatened with unemployment, potentially even facing a forced waiting period with the job center. In addition to these burdens, today, on December 27, 2023, we were requested by the BIM and SenKGZ to vacate the premises by Saturday, December 31, 2023. This unexpected evacuation request exacerbates the uncertain situation and further jeopardizes the future of Oyoun and its employees.
The current approach of the Senate reveals concerning and alarming unpredictability, it raises questions about decision-making and adherence to its own principles. Among the key
funding principles of the Berlin Senate Department for Culture: artistic freedom, independence from the state, transparency.
In a city where the cultural and creative industries are immensely important and are now affected by sudden, unexplained, and potentially existential threats, the question arises: Who might be the next target of arbitrary defunding? Oyoun continues to hope for clarifying discussions that will lead to an understandable and fair resolution.