Memo May 2005

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in May 2005


How big is the trouble after the rejection of the draft EU constitution in two countries?

Paris, May
BO attended les Rencontres pour l'Europe de la Culture early in May in Paris. How to report?

While watching east-central European phenomena, BO is not indifferent. Sympathetic observers we are, but not activists. BO most enjoys gatherings that provide more information or insight on the state and prospects of culture in east-central-Europe. We feel less at ease at conferences culminating in declarations. ("Now that the European Union is welcoming ten new member states...")

BO missed non-accessed Europeans from the Paris meeting. After the referendum it seems most Frenchmen did not.

BO admires splendour, to an extent. The majestic republican milieu in Paris was slightly too heavy.

Budapest, November
BO is involved in preparing the next round , in Budapest in November. Some people around are under the Berlin-Paris spell and look forward to the crème of Europe for more eloquence. BO strives for opportunities for discussion and dialogue. Will ministers want to join in?

Giscard's Labour lost?
And BO's. Once we screened the many months' product of the European Convention led by Giscard d'Estaing to see how culture will figure in the constitution. Now we must focus on the actual (old) version of the treaty, as last amended in Nice.

Most references to culture are identical, though. E.g. the sentence (applying also to culture): "European laws or framework laws shall establish incentive actions, excluding any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States".

Sneaking harmonisation
Whenever proponents of culture gather, the ban on harmonisation is not much respected. Most of the suggestions in Paris (and on other occasions) imply surreptitious harmonisation of cultural policies and regulations of member countries. Which is no heresy for BO.

Culture is exceptional
The speech by the actual president of the European Council, prime minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker, was one of the best moments of the Paris meeting. Culture is something else, he said, "une attitude à la vie", which is why it needs different treatment. Juncker emphasised the significance of the article - III-56 - in the draft constitution that would cement the exemption of aid to culture from the rules on competition.

Working on the Laboratory
As a modest satellite to the Rencontres pour l'Europe de la Culture, the Stakeholders' Forum of the Laboratory of European Cultural Cooperation held its second meeting in Paris. The steering body of the same Lab discussed developments a few days later. BO attended both. The project is still in the initial stage, where the greatest challenge for both meetings was to establish coherence and synergy between the components of this complex initiative. By the autumn the first services and products will be accessible. To acquire preliminary knowledge, click here.

Collecting C2000 experiences
The low visibility of successful Culture 2000 projects have been a recurrent criticism addressed to this programme. The Commission is now encouraging feedback in the monthly C2000 newsletter: "Are you a participant in a project funded by Culture 2000? If so, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.'d like to hear from you."

The European Cultural Contact Point in Ireland does the same. If you know of C2000 funded projects, add their web site address to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.'s collection.

Successful integration of operations in east-central Europe deserves to be demonstrated. 

North goes digital
Going back to home ground, BO is fond of comparative statistics. Most of these data confirm the west-east slope, the on-going division of the continent.

Most, but not all. The latest Eurostat report shows that  "in the first quarter of 2004, the highest levels of internet usage by individuals in the EU25 were recorded in Sweden (82%), Denmark (76%) and Finland (70%). The lowest levels were registered in Greece (20%), Hungary (28%), Lithuania, Poland and Portugal (all 29%)." The figure in Estonia (50%) was higher than that of Spain (45%) or Italy (37%). 

Culture - a catalyst of local development
Fellow e-newsletter Cyberkaris has called our attention to the OECD publication Culture and Local Development. Appears to be especially relevant to our region. BO will get hold of a copy and let you know whether it is worth to spend €21 for a downloaded version (or €30 plus postage for a conventional book). 

Indeed, how big is the trouble?
It looked like a boring procedure of formal votings. And then the game became real. The grand idea of European integration has gone (temporarily) sour. Is it because of us, the eastern enlargement? Are there implications to cultural co-operation? Questions for the next weeks and months.