Memo October 2005

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


The month brought about a few important accomplishments.

A Convention at Unesco
Although a few days earlier there were sceptical rumours, in the end the Unesco General Conference almost unanimously adopted the Convention on Cultural Diversity. By now most people are able to decode that this agreement is closely related to what was earlier known as l'exception culturelle, the special status given to cultural goods and services in all international negotiations and decisions about goods and services; in particular during the World Trade Organisation talks.  

One learns this from the accompanying explanations. The text of the Convention does not suggest the formidable content, which made world powers (mainly multinational corporations) try to prevent it from completion for years. It does not even contain the word "trade" or such indecencies as "quota". "Promote" occurs more often than "protect" (37 to 29).

It will take long before one learns about the exact impact of the Convention, because of the lengthy process of ratification.

A proposal by the Commission
The European Commission has made a suggestion to declare 2008 to be the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. BO is not particularly enthusiastic about designated days and years as propaganda tools. And yet, and yet... Studying the text of the proposal, one is inclined to believe that with all the immenseness and complexity of the issue, this is what one can realistically expect of the European Union. The language is simple, is about bringing together the peoples of Europe, about managing our diversity. It argues, without overemphasising, that intercultural dialogue is an instrument which could facilitate other strategic priorities in Europe. The proposal makes due reference to the external relations of the Union.

The proposed budget of 10 million € appears to be commensurate with the main goal of raising awareness. In order to spend more one would require more certain conviction and consensus about what for, than what our troubled time offers.

A new partner
BO greets the step of involving Turkey into the Culture 2000 programme from 2006. We regret, however, the following sentence in the same news item: "negotiations will begin in the near future with Croatia for participation in the programme after 2007". Too late.

A rich survey
BO acknowledges the great amount of work invested into the survey of funding opportunities for culture in the Balkans, done by Ecumest. It offers much more than being the yellow pages for fund seekers. It is and will remain a reference document about a facet of the transition period of south-east Europe.

 A look at a little explored area
BO has read with great interest (although with considerable difficulties due to the language) the survey on cultural centres, focusing of five European countries. It was done by Interarts, Barcelona and publicised in their newsletter Cyberkaris. BO is looking forward to contributing to this kind of explorations in the future - as promised long ago. 

A look at subsidising festivals
There are things that we manage to accomplish, though. The survey on practices of financing festivals, initiated by BO, has been accomplished and put on display on the site of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies IFACCA. With the ever increasing importance of festivals, it was a surprise that few funding agencies have developed special treatment to them. This makes the practice of the few exceptions (Australia, Canada, New Zealand) more remarkable.

A past failure
The competition for the Hungarian city to be nominated as European Capital of Culture in 2010 did not bring success to BO.

A forthcoming success
However, before and above all, BO is overwhelmed by the preparation of Inclusive Europe? Horizon 2020, to be held in Budapest from 17 to 19 November. The conference that brings together top administrators and field operators, zealous innovators and defenders of past glory, hearts of sentiments and minds of reason, people to seek orientation and others to show them the way, the event that still accepts registration.