Memo November 2005


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

Post-conference inertia. Most of you are familiar with the state of mind.

Inclusive Europe? Horizon 2020 is the reason. Those of you who were here appeared to like the event.

Ministers and rank-and-file of culture
Ministers or their deputies from 27 countries, and about 400 more participants listened to the starting questions by
EFAH President: What have we achieved (with regard to inclusion)? How can we do better? What might we recommend to our governments? So that they can do better. What policy changes do we advocate?

Although there had been concerns about it, the hybrid conference of ministers and operators seemed to work fine. It certainly worked fine for two ministers with special responsibility, one for the UK Presidency, the other for the host country. When will they next be heartily applauded by an international audience?

Divided in unity
Conference participants were divided for much of the time in parallel working sessions. Thus, about the greater part of what was said in the other halls, they could pick up from each other in small quotes like the following:

Will digital technology transform cinemas into mini cinemateques able to offer programs of great (European) variety, or will it confirm the domination of the transatlantic studios? What a pity such questions are so rarely included into (other) cultural conferences, although films are the major form of exposure to culture for most Europeans, both in terms of time and impact.

To work for a more human and inclusive society is the major action plan of the 46 member countries in the Council of Europe for the coming years.

Inclusion? Cohabitation rather, argued one speaker, instead of implying that someone is inside and someone is not.

Inclusion? Transgression rather, concluded one keynote speaker, proposing it to be the theme of the next conference.

The EU has no cultural policy? Of course it has, through tax regimes, allowing for example zero VAT on books in the UK, and obliging 8,5% to the huge Slovenian book market.

The great-great granddaughters of film makers routinely forbid the screening of their distant relatives' work for no good reason - this was said in a different context while the restrictive nature of European copyright regimes was being discussed in another room.

The meeting took place a short while after the ethnic riots in French cities. All along the conference speakers found it necessary to touch on the theme, some at length. (The French culture minister did not.)

Marseille is more inclusive than other cities. Which is why it remained relatively calm in October.

Rome has had a good intercultural education programme. Although the same researcher found that the mentality of city administration rarely reflects whether it is a mature and rich metropolis in the west or a fairly homogeneous one in the east.

Essen, Görlitz, Luxembourg prepare for their capital years in 2007, 2010; also Budapest for spring 2011, when it can be (cultural) capital of Europe - a propos the EU presidency.

Not surprisingly, most of the good news came about flexible civic initiatives, some of them reaching fantastic dimensions later on (like the project on creative partnerships).

Surprisingly, elephants are sometimes dynamic, too: opera houses in Britain, Paris and certainly in Brussels have exciting experiences about involving new audiences.

Surprisingly, a speaker from a largely excluded cultural community avoided the democratisation or democracy dilemma by insisting that the first and most important task is to create a certain distance between culture and democracy. ("Culture is not politics. Culture is culture".)

The organisers are busy reconstructing the minutes of the conference sessions in order that you can read the whole text soon.

The Jean Monnet myth
Did he ever say "Si l'Europe était à refaire, je commencerais par la culture"? A newcomer to our environment admitted in one of the sessions that none of the hundreds of Google references managed to convince him about authenticity. (Similar to the linguistic hoax about the dozens of words the Inuit have for snow?)

A nice piece of European folklore. Part of our mythology. Does it matter if the story of Prometheus was invented?

Round 2689
On the same week as the Budapest conference, the Council of the European Union met for the 2689th time in Brussels.

The Council reached a partial political agreement on a decision establishing the Media 2007 Culture 2007 programmes. Behind „partial" lies the question whether in the final budget the former can keep the € 1000 million, and the latter the € 400 million target the 2007-2013 period. 

Linz and Vilnius were officially designated as European Capitals of Culture in 2009.

"There has been a warm welcome to the proposals of the Commission for the creation of a European Digital Library." BO will extend a warm welcome at the sight of something more concrete.

"Partial" agreement was reached about the integrated life long learning programme for 2007-2013. By this time culture ministers had probably left the room, leaving the ground for their education colleagues, though links between life long learning - its goals, means and institutions - relate closely with the cultural sector, at least in a number of countries, at least historically. The proposed budget of this EU programme is almost ten times bigger than MediaCulture together. and

Tell'em what culture is worth
The Commission has selected a Brussels based operation called Kern European Affairs to complete a study in a highly topical theme. In conjunction with Turku based Media Group and MKW GmbH from Germany, the consortium has got a year to arrive at a better understanding of the economic dimension of traditional artistic activities and creative industries, as well as assessing how the cultural sector can contribute to achieving the Lisbon strategy, in particular in terms of economic growth and social cohesion.

What a challenge. Those wishing to lend a hand, write This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Almost unanimous
The Unesco General Conference almost unanimously adopted the Convention on Cultural Diversity. The word in italic was missing from the e-mailed version of MemoOct.

If you ask why the USA voted against, this is what worried Condoleezza Rice: "This convention could be misused by governments to legitimise their controls over the flow of information, invites abuse by enemies of democracy and free trade."