Memo May 2006
A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in May 2006
This memo features the visual demonstration of cultural co-operation in Europe, hot off the print, i.e. from BO desks.
The attached drawings show the dynamics of co-operation in the frames of the Culture 2000 programme. The thickness of the arrows corresponds to the frequency of selecting co-organisers from a given country during the six years between 2000-2005. Both drawings are dominated by the bonds between German and Polish operators: the former chose the latter in 19 projects, and Polish project leaders involved German co-organisers in 14 cases. The biggest old member state with the biggest new one, with a long common border, nothing to wonder about.
The price of analysis
BO is proud of these illustrations, also the entire analysis of the various aspects of Culture 2000 projects - this will be printed as well as put on digital display during summer, to replace the previous attempt. The feeling of accomplishment relates to the pains caused by the lamentable state of the sources stored on the culture website of the European Commission. The past records of C2000 grants contain errors and contradictions; our correspondents have also pointed at a few more. The system seems to serve for ad hoc release only and not for reliable documentation.
The Commission delays
Last autumn a call encouraged "bodies pursuing an aim of general European interest in the field of culture" to apply for annual operating grants before the end of October 2005.
BO would be pleased to comment the list of winners. Instead, one reads the following announcement: the "probable written communication of the results of the selection procedure to the applicants" takes place in June; probably in June, about money that was supposed to enable operation from January on. BO is not affected directly, yet wonders what is going on here. Indifference? Incompetence? Confusion? Commission.
The 2729th Council Meeting
The council of education and culture ministers of the Union sat on the 18th and 19th of May. Ministers "reached political agreement" on a number of major issues: Culture 2007, European year of intercultural dialogue 2008, Citizens for Europe programme, Unesco convention on cultural diversity, strengthening European creative industries etc.
BO wishes to help memo readers interpret such events. However, we lack clues. We have no idea what was changed by these decisions. BO usually disapproves if cultural policy is limited to public budget figures. The absence of any reference to funding is a bit too much of diplomatic bandage, though.
From global to urban
The Unesco convention basically and originally relates to issues of world trade, and is particularly geared to the developing countries. It became, however, the trampoline to discussing the burning issue of intercultural relationship, especially in cities in western Europe. (See also the latest BO memo .)
This is how cultural diversity was treated in May in Bratislava, at the annual conference of the European network of cultural administration training centres: ENCATC (not a user friendly name, is it?). BO was present, and told about the three stages of intercultural relations, ranging from reciprocal exchanges (fair balance), through inclusion (empathy and curiosity), to organic interaction that can produce new quality and new identity.
Eurostat published data from national censuses that show the percentage of foreigners in the EU. The total figure is just under 5.5%. Country figures show great variance, Luxembourg with 38.6% and Slovakia with 0.6%. In most countries the largest group of non-nationals is from Europe. In the UK, for example, the biggest community of foreigners is from Ireland, whereas in Ireland from the UK. This does not fit into the cultural diversity pattern as discussed in Bratislava. There are three countries, however, where citizens of Turkey are the biggest non-native group: Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands (where the entire percentage of foreigners is 5,0 - 8,9 - 4,3%).
The EU is conscious about language issues. This is demonstrated by the fact that Irish is an official language and will become a full working language on 1 January 2007. Also, the list of the eight key competences for lifelong learning, as established at the 2729th council meeting, starts with communication in the mother tongue.
The two things, however, are not the same. A minister's speech was once interrupted by applause, when he said: "Instead of translating bureaucratic texts, policies of multilingualism should concentrate on education, literary translations and other ways of support to minority languages." In the spirit of the Bratislava conference I would add: including newly established minorities.
Checking back on the original issue, BO wondered what had been achieved in the realm of l'exception culturelle. In May, Peter Mandelson, the commissioner in charge, held two important speeches, one in Switzerland, the other in the European Parliament. The statements portrayed the position of the European Community with regard to the Doha round of world trade talks. The word globalisation occurred over thirty times - diversity or culture not once.
Market or society?
This was the subtitle of a hearing, held by the EU parliamentary committee in charge (among others) of culture on 3rd May. Diversity was basically treated in the Unesco sense. Speakers regretted that cross-border transactions geared by big capital cause harm to local, national values. It was argued that certain protective measures can "secure a brighter future for young talent and... keep the dream alive". When, however, actors from third countries are involved, this "is one of the best means to bring people together."
The hearing was not on culture: it was on football.