Memo April 2003


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in April 2003 - a one-word e-mail (‘unsubscribe') will save your PC from us

Never exceed 900 words or else your e-bulletin ends up un-read in the trash bin. And if you are after a busy month? Well...

Kosovo twists
Last year the culture ministry of Kosovo invited a team to prepare a draft strategy for culture, with the help of Council of Europe experts (hence BO involvement). The draft put the target extremely high, among others in stripping the ministry from many functions, proposing to leave these to bodies selected from the cultural community. A two-day conference was held early this April; its participants voted for the status-quo in most structural issues, in effect re-installing the monopoly of the ministry administration. An article in the leading daily paper later revealed that the partisan attempt of the draft to diversify decision-making was felt by cultural actors as an effort on behalf of the ministry(!) to increase bureaucracy, which was successfully thwarted.

Maybe. Though I felt differently. But two days is too short to interpret aims and motivations properly. 

Culturelink hosted and co-organised this year's Circle Round Table late this April in Zagreb, in the subject of culture in the electronic age. It demonstrated the best traditions of Circle: sniffing in the air for a topical theme, bringing together researchers, practitioners and administrators, detecting specialists to speak on selected issues and finding sponsors to provide good facilities.

Few recent cultural policy documents manage to fully reflect the impact of the digital age. The conference brought to light segments of culture that have been fundamentally changed by the internet, or were born as a consequence of the world wide web. As time went along, copyright and licences were mentioned more and more frequently, apparently among the trickiest issues in the near future.

If downloading the conference reader is beyond your patience or capacities, beg This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Culturelink for the Introduction prepared by Ritva, which is in fact an executive summary. 

Fossil or adept survivor?
The Interarts - EFAH project on cultural cooperation in Europe took up much of BO memos (and BO time) lately. The working sessions in Barcelona, early this April, suggested success, although at the expense of much further work on behalf of Interarts staff (and outside helpers like Jerry) on the 7th floor with a nice view to the sea.

The discussion confirmed our sentiments that bilateral cultural cooperation agreements between governments are not entirely different from species that have survived climatic changes. These high level diplomatic instruments, and the cultural exchange programmes derived from them, thrived best in the mid- and late cold war climate. They fulfilled important functions then in making passages through the iron curtain and in making nation states co-operate with each other culturally.

Yet the national reports, dutifully provided by 31 contributors, also revealed that in this changed world, essentially multilateral in character, the exchange programmes between couples of cultural ministries have maintained some of their appeal, and it would be too early to advocate a totally new paradigm.

Lessons to draw and convert into recommendations to the EU Commission? BO is as curious about the outcome as you, dear reader. We shall let you know (anyway, we owe several messages in the subject).

The social dimension of European cultural policies
BO postponed a long-planned research on socio-cultural activities and institutions in Europe for sake of our contribution to the previous subject. But for the next couple of months this will be our main work. As usual, you may receive personal messages in the subject.

Instead of defining the issue, now you will learn in what way the survey will be different from previous concepts. The main emphasis will be on examining ways in which cultural policies and institutions try to contribute to preventing and reducing poverty and social exclusion in various European countries.

By this shift of accent BO wishes to bring this survey closer to a related European project, coordinated by researchers at the University of Northumbria.

More money from businesses to culture
BO takes part in another exciting project. Visitors to the site of CEREC, the network of organisations that promote cultural sponsorship in Europe, actually find no member from east-central Europe. There are plans now to set up one organisation in Hungary, which will fulfil such functions and aspire to be eligible for CEREC membership soon. The initiative came from the Soros Foundation, in order not to leave a vacuum behind.

One publication
In different meetings and in different countries, representatives of quite diverse groups of cultural players have been telling BO, basically the same thing: "to solve our problems, we need a law". The same happened to Delia Mucica and she wrote a booklet in response: "Cultural legislation: Why? How? What?" Easy to read, and covers almost the entire scope of actual issues in cultural policy.

The full text is on the Council of Europe portal. Do not hope to find or download the 69 pages easily. Try to get hold of a copy.

One seminar
Prospects are good that similarly digestible thoughts can be heard in live performance on 15 May in London, with heavy-weight experts on stage, chaired by Miklós, BO founding president. Title: "What values underpin cultural policies in Europe?" For more, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..