Memo June 2005
A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in June 2005
Almost all BO time in June was taken up by two large tasks. These occupy this memo.
Inclusive Europe on the net
Inclusive Europe is a European cultural forum of ministers. At the same time it is the annual conference of the European Forum for the Arts and Heritage. It is not always easy to understand how this double nature will be manifested. BO is confident about the advantages of combining various dispositions under the same roof. Top level administrators meet regularly, so do operators from the field, and general and theoretical considerations have been expressed in Berlin and Paris, not to mention the 2nd European cultural forum held in Luxembourg in April.
Besides providing a platform for further pronouncements on European culture, BO will use all means to elicit dialogue, exchange and confrontation of ideas.
The site will not remain so plain. Accomplished with the logo of the conference (see below), the designers promise a more attractive surface.
BO was asked whether the conference would continue the editing of the European Cultural Charter.
Our search for the answer led to the earliest mentioning of such a charter as early as 1991. A web page cites the journal European Affairs. This source is conscious about the broader content of Europe and points at "the assumption of cultural co-operation between European Union and Council of Europe, rejecting the exclusivity of the EU acquis communautaire".
Later, in 2000, Raymond Weber argued in the Lettre Internationale for a charter that "could set out the principles of European policy".
"A Soul for Europe" in Berlin kept the charter on the agenda, just like the Rencontres in Paris. Both our memory and our sources are a bit vague about whether the document signed in the Comédie francaise was it or was it not.
Could the quest for the Holy Grail end in such indifference? Or is it still going on? Don't ask BO.
Rules of the game set down
European capitals of culture have been selected by several ways. This variety has led to misinterpretations. The Commission of the EU has now elaborated a proposal about the procedures.
The proposed rules do not apply to those who are entitled to hold the title until 2012. Thus Romania (Sibiu), Lithuania (Vilnius), Hungary, Estonia and Slovenia (to name the countries from our region) may continue their preparations like before. Slovakia in 2013 is the first to apply the new rules (together with France).
In addition, it may take months before the Parliament and the Council pass their decisions on this proposal.
In spite of the limitations contained in the preceding two paragraphs, this proposal will certainly guide the thinking about European capitals of culture from now on.
The way how the British administered their competition for 2008 (Liverpool arriving home), and the way the same has been done in Germany for 2010 (with Essen and Görlitz in the final) have impressed the rest of Europe. Also the Hungarian authorities: the contest of eleven cities for 2010, shortlisted down to seven, is attracting increasing attention in the country.
Open, transparent competition inside the countries will be the rule from 2013 on. Who will decide? One cannot answer with one word. Here is the procedure:
The proposals of the candidate cities will be evaluated by a European panel in two steps. After a pre-selection round with feed-back and short-listing, the panel will arrive at recommending one city: this recommendation will be made public.
Then the government of the member state shall nominate one city (four years before the year).
Then the European Parliament may express opinion.
Then the Commission makes its recommendation.
Then the Council will designate the city.
The job of the selection panel is not completed with the designation of the city. They have monitoring tasks at 2 years and 6 months respectively, before the year begins.
Values and principles
Besides the technical and administrative aspects of the selection, the proposal is adamant about principles and values, too.
The Commission has made clear preferences. The emphasis is on the programme of activities, and on the events and actions contained in that programme. The key concepts are „European dimension" and „European added value". BO shall not tell you what the Commission means by these terms - read Article 3 of the proposed decision.
It is required that „the programme shall be sustainable and be an integral part of the long term cultural development of the city." This is all that the proposal says about urban development and investment.
Partners usually get surprised by the small size of BO: number of staff, office space etc. While working on the Budapest bid, on the other hand, we do suffer from the complex of being too big. Some people keep saying that a capital city of this size is dispreferred by the EU. Can you find any indication in the 14 pages of this document of the Commission that implies such a hint? BO believes that Budapest could make a fantastic European Capital of Culture.
Money. The Commission lets us know that the temporarily shelved draft budget of the Union "would allow up to a tripling of the Community contribution" as compared to the actual subsidy.
And finally, the proposal believes that European cultural months should be revived to involve cities from non-member countries. BO is looking forward to this initiative.