Memo January 2006


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in January 2006

Find a few initial findings from what BO staff has been busy counting in January.

Austro-Finnish promise
The two governments prepared a joint programme for the two halves of 2006. It begins by stating that "the common objective of the Presidencies is to ensure that the co-decision procedure on the proposal for a decision establishing the Culture Programme (2007-2013) will be completed by the end of 2006."

BO is still occupied with the examination of the last round of Culture 2000 projects.

C2000 projects in 2005
The spell broke. So did the upward curve. The numbers of C2000 projects led by an organisation from east and central Europe had shown a steady and mystical formula in the years 2001-2004, which was discontinued in 2005: 8 - 16 - 24 - 24 - 18.

Certainly, the overall number of projects fell from 165 to 130, but the 18 wins represent a slight percentage fall, too. Italy, the eternal champion, scored more then the ten eastern countries together, so did German organisations, the second most successful nation. 

Who is to blame? Hungarians, for instance, with zero. Who is to praise? Czechs with 7! See total list:

Italy 22
Germany 19
France 14
UK 12
Austria 10
Belgium, Czech Republic 7
Spain 5
Finland, Netherlands, Sweden 4
Greece, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia 3
Ireland, Lithuania, Norway 2
Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia 1
Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta 0

This is not a very gratifying outlook. See the graph at the bottom, how overall positions from 2000 on have changed.

As is our custom, BO observed translation grants separately - and found more to rejoice about. This small table shows the division of funds between old and new members.

  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
West 100% 98% 80% 68% 50% 43%
East 0% 2% 20% 32% 50%

The Commission and the experts involved in the evaluation seem to acknowledge that translations grants have more in common with support to the needy than with the quest for best quality, rightly (and supposedly) followed in case of other cultural cooperation projects.

BO has more compliments in this regard. In 2005 - in the 6th year of C2000 - only one publisher won for the 5th and another for the 3rd time. In an area where so many organisations qualify for support, principles of rotation and geographic distribution should prevail. In the 30 countries concerned, there are hundreds of presses that regularly publish translated quality literature and have never received a C2000 grant. The translation support scheme used to look a closed shop, which can be seen from the next small table.

  Of these, 2x or more 3x or more 4x or more 5x   2000-2005
Publishers 171 53 30 14 7 (275)
Grants 118 46 48 28 35

275 translation grants were distributed to 171 publishers between 2000-2005. It is left to your logic to understand the lower line.

To the small and from the small
The main purpose ("philosophy") of the translation programme is to help foreign books reach smaller language markets. The grants enhance mobility of works from the centre to the peripheries, as well as their horizontal exchange on the peripheral markets.

Less emphasis is put on the direction from lesser spoken languages towards the mainstream. Europe, however, should feel greater concern for the sustainable share of works that originate from lesser translated source languages. The Commission should share the efforts of nations to promote the access of their intellectual products to major markets. In addition to translation into Norwegian, Lithuanian or Greek, it is essential to help Norwegian (Lithuanian, Greek etc.) works appear in the best spread languages, not only including, but above all - English.

That would go far beyond the tiny funds for C2000 translation grants. In final analysis, the very existence of cultural industries (electronic media, publishing etc.) in small languages justifies structural support. The concept of linguistic diversity calls for the strategic involvement of the cultural industries, both on national and on European level.

€ 1 000 000 000 000 on public culture
I was asked how I know that this much will be spent on culture from national, regional and municipal sources in the EU during the next septennial period. Well, this is a bit more than 1% of the expected overall gross EU product between 2007 and 2013. It is a realistic estimate that around 1% of gross national products will be spent on culture - as it happens in a number of countries nowadays.

The evergreen questions of course arise about borderline cases. Is cinema and filmmaking included? And arts education? Archeological explorations? Yes, they are all included in the estimate.