Memo December 2003

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in December 2003

 

Hoping that 2004 brings fruits - a few at least - of the networking promiscuity that BO has been involved in in the past months. Proposals, projects, promises.

Commission communicates
Early in December, the European Commission took an important step. As is their habit, they issued a Communication, containing statements like the following:

Countries of the western Balkans will sooner or later all be associated countries and all are recognised as potential applicants for membership. Participation in Community programmes can also be of benefit to places that are likely to remain associated countries for a long time or indefinitely.

Preparations have thus begun to involve Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro in the programmes of the Union from as early as 2005. See http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/see/docs/com03_748_en.pdf

That's great. Even though the word culture appears in a footnote only.

C 2000 evaluated
One more item of Europa site created excitement with us: the evaluation report about Culture 2000. BO had a modest go some time ago: http://www.budobs.org/euC2000-in2002.htm, an exercise that we were about to re-do at greater length. We therefore speeded up and created an early interim draft - but this comes later in this memo.

The evaluation was made by a Danish agency called PLS RAMBOLL Management. Their survey was based on the 2000 and 2001 rounds of C 2000. They found, among others, that almost every fourth application in those two years arrived from Italy, and yet, winning projects from France nearly equalled them; Greece was third, way behind, before the biggest member country, Germany.

Another interesting feature was that among the grant-winning organisations that were subsequently interviewed there was a high number of ‘research institutions': they provided almost a fourth of all co-organisers

BO agrees
Having investigated the scores of the past three years, BO is inclined to share most of the positive conclusions of the evaluation. Including, obviously, the recommendation that "the Commission should survey the extent to which the inclusion of operators from the associated countries has increased in the remainder of the programme period." See http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/evalreports/culture/2003/culture2000int1/culture2000int1rep_en.pdf.

The evaluation has also shown that about a third of the operators required more transparency in the selection procedure. This requirement is perennially just. BO must be just, too, by acknowledging the progress the Commission has made in this direction.

BO disagrees
Has the critical vein of BO vanished? Not quite. BO strongly disagrees with the suggestion to omit the phrase Explicit recognition of culture as an economic factor from the objectives of C 2000, and to drop the role of culture in socio-economic development from the criteria.

The Danish study does not argue at length, other than suggesting to get rid of some of the ballast on the programme. BO feels that the omission of this objective would harm the eastern half of the continent more than the old members.

Furthermore, the Danish evaluators wondered about the effects of the introduction of the 5% rule (namely that each co-ordinator must cover at least 5% of the costs). They drew the sympathetic conclusion that it would hamper the participation of candidate countries. BO analysis, however, showed no coincidence between the economic power of a country and its activeness at C 2000. 

BO evaluates
The interim draft of the BO analysis Culture 2000 with Eastern Eyes offers some interesting points at this early stage, too. In the past three years,

  • 39% of all winning projects had a leader and/or co-organiser from east and central Europe;
  • The share of eastern leaders has doubled from 2001 to 2003;
  • The greatest proportion of west-east collaboration took place in the visual arts field;
  • Poland, the most active country from centre-east, owes its ‘Pole position' to the successes in the performing arts projects (where Slovakia has remained at nil);
  • Italian-led projects involved as many partners from the east as second-third Germany and France together.

For more food for thought, go to http://www.budobs.org/euC2000-easteyes.htm.

BO observes
Being an Observatory, BO has thoughts about establishing one such institution at European level. What first comes to our mind goes like this:

There is frustration within the cultural sector regarding the lack of European financial support for cultural co-operation and there are concerns that any new interventions at the European level will take resources away from existing organisations and networks. The current scarcity would make an observatory an unpopular use of resources and would be seen as a ‘top down' intervention.

BO admits that the previous paragraph is made of quotes from the report that ECOTEC, a Brussels based agency made on the issue, upon the invitation of the Commission. Of course, they go on and wonder about options B and C as well. Go and read what kind of a Eurobservatory the report proposes: http://ec.europa.eu/culture/archive/sources_info/evaluation/pdf_word/culture2000int2rep_en.pdf.

BO obeys
"Please circulate this to your colleagues and networks." BO obeys such triggers when they refer to themes close to our remit: east-central Europe and/or the bases of cultural activities. Some of the themes selected for a conference (Brighton, from 28 April) seem very relevant: European enlargement: implications for creative business. Or: Cultural value and economic value. And: Financing creativity. For further info go to http://www.creativeclusters.co.uk. Particularly if you are eager to speak or hear about such issues.