Memo November 2003


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

Europe, Europe - over 80% of this memo is about the Union.

Passing state exams
Accession countries get their annual evaluation each autumn. Chapter 20 is as monotonuous as ever. BO selection offers little excitement: Except maybe that Bulgaria and Romania, training for community life for a few more years, proved to be more diligent than the rest. According to the reports only these two countries have fulfilled the requirements of the Television Without Frontiers directive.

Council with culture ministers
Twice a year one session of the European Council, the most powerful instance of the EU, is dedicated to culture, education and youth. The 2545th session took place on 24-25th November. Forthcoming fuller reports on

The documents of the Council are in the newspeak of our days. Cultural operators all over the continent speak about cultural support from the Union - the official discourse talks of cultural cooperation only. (Because, as we know, the Union has no mandate for culture, just to promote cultural cooperation.)

Similarly, by EU cultural actions common folks mean everything from cultural capitals through Media Plus to Culture 2000. Commission discourse tends to equate this latter to the entirety of EU culture. This is reflected in papers on future EU cultural actions.

Future tense
One of these is the summary of the public consultation about how to proceed after C2000 expires. BO prepared for you an extraction of 265 words: Did we, or rather, did the 250 messages sent to the Commission manage to sum up what the cultural community expects from the Union after 2006? Maybe. A sample sentence: „Every effort should be made to ensure that cooperation projects are in line with a truly European, as opposed to an intergovernmental, approach."

Future EU cultural actions were on the agenda of the 2545th Council meeting, too. A "new generation" programme was promised after Culture 2000, with fewer priorities, for an optimal effectiveness for European added value. Fight against atomisation is what experts and common sense suggest. So far, so good. Unless the charm of C2000 disappears, that it appeared to be accessible from the grass roots. Unless it will be dominated by the established élite of EU culture.

 With our specially tuned ears, BO found satisfaction in the emphasis put on accession countries as well as "third countries" (e.g. Albania or Ukraine in EU newspeak) when the 2545th session discussed future cultural actions.

The Council dealt with the principles of EU subsidies to selected cultural organisations. This system will be reformed, adding among others the Nazi concentration camp memorials to the list.

Quite naturally, the future of EU cultural actions was the recurring subject at the EFAH Assembly in Berlin as well, attended by BO as a new member organisation. It was promised that a mantra will be composed on what the cultural community expects from the union.

Constituting the future
Wrestling went on about the finalisation of the basic EU documents in the main political arenas, too. Those struggles hardly affect culture, albeit indirectly. One such concern is whether Christian values should be mentioned in the constitution. Another one is the case for minorities - a concept carrying heavy cultural loading. The main partisan if the issue, Hungary, appears to have succeeded and minority rights will be mentioned in one way or another. 

Reporting on Linz
Austria is habitually going out of her ways to establish links with (and between) cultural ministers but also insitutions and personalities from east and central Europe. This November Linz was the scene. Read BO report on the event:

The subject of one session was promotion of disadvantaged literatures. One delegate, Polish by nationality, remarked that the EU should support distribution. The chair, international civil servant by position, replied it is not an EU task.

Too quickly, I'm afraid. The 2545th session was right to be proud that 90% of films distributed in another EU country have lately received support from Media, a programme of three pillars: training, production and distribution. Why not similarly for small language publications?   

More from the 2545thMedia brings us back to the 2545th session. (Formidable name, isn't it? Trains, secret agents and buffets in communist times used to be identified like that.) The Council decided on three points: endorsed positive discrimination (yes!) for new members, also for small and medium entreprises (SMEs), and pointed at the importance of digital technologies in the world of films.  

The Council passed a resolution on the legal deposit (obligatory copies for state collections) of cinema works. One learns that this matter is settled in two thirds of member states. One would have expected a higher share.

Still the same 2545th session proclaimed "Towards a cultural space of European museums". Notwithstanding its great significance, the resolution contains no surprises. Further analysis will reveal its delicate or strong points. The document is divided in chapters on training, restauration, smuggling and exhibitions - this last one, getting a separate chapter, might be a new phenomenon.

Browsing the remaining themes of the two-day 2545th session, one reads about fighting against the social exclusion of youth. The resolution, among others, points at the importance of centres where the young can meet and acquire social competence: a major function of most of the cultural centres all over Europe. Unfortunately the words after the colon are missing from the resolution. They are there, however, in the survey BO is about to continue on multifunctional institutions of local culture.

More on youth and culture
The preliminary study ( of the survey referred to in the last sentence needs to be complemented with a passage on the Banlieus d'Europe network. Their electronic newsletter, reaching us via Bucharest, announces, among others, a seminar on the social impact of cultural activity for and with young people. (It took place mid-November in Paris.)

Worship sponsorship?
Back in September BO collected views on the state of cultural sponsorship in east-central Europe. The brief summary shows a startling similarity of a similar round of questions three years ago. Both then and now the average guess is around 4%: people estimate that businesses add another 4% to what is provided to culture from public sources. Yet there are champions of fundraising: some get over 60% from businesses for a festival.

The answers reveal that personal relationship (who knows whom) is more decisive about cultural sponsorship in our part of the world, than the calculated interest of the business company.

In for an informal meeting
BO has been involved in the early preparatory moves about the next Informal European Theatre Meeting (IETM), to be held in Budapest between 22-25 next April. A week before accession. Hope to see you among the hundreds of participants.

BO grumbled about the slow approval process of the studies made in spring about cultural cooperation in Europe. See our self-correction on this in the last passage of But now the large report may be accessible any day, keep trying, the new website of the coordinating institution of the job. Until then you can find one of the ingredients on BO site: