Memo February 2002


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of The Budapest Observatory (BO) in February 2002

Digital communication is great. Yet it cannot come close to physical encounters. We were pleased to meet so many of you between 14-17 in Budapest.

Big, good and beautiful it was
I suppose few will contradict. The conference on the impact of EU enlargement on cultural opportunities across Europe was accomplished as it had been dreamed of. The oral and written feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

Certainly, the obvious diametric comments were raised, too: some missed more profound written preparation, while others would have welcomed even fewer speeches and more discussion.

After the syndrome of post conference collapse, our gradual regeneration will be traced on the conference site:, and on the shadow pages. You can already read the letter to Viviane Reding, and the comprehensive summary based on the four rapporteurs' remarkable performance on the final session.

The success of the event has the paradoxical effect that instead of mission accomplished and finished, there is a natural expectation towards each of the three organisers (as well as Circle, estimated partner in one part of the programme), for further actions in the sevice of the cause of culture in the European enlargement process.

Unesco si, Union no
Copies of the letter just mentioned above were sent to a number of officials, who had been approached beforehand, too. Till now, Unesco acknowledged receipt. Katerina Stenou wrote, among others: "As one of the initiators of The Budapest Observatory, Unesco is particularly gratified by the interest of EU-, accession- and non-member countries reinforcing the partnership between governmental bodies and the civil society for the purpose of expanding a better intercultural dialogue and sustaining cultural diversity."

Considering Unesco's financial support as well, this agency, and the Council of Europe, through the active participation of Vera Boltho, have demonstrated their will to remain on the vanguard of  searching future ways of cultural cooperation in Europe. (Different in status, but with a respectable record, the presence of the European Cultural Foundation was also taken note of.)

Losers: regular BO tasks
The spiralling participation rate at the conference (going beyond 200) devoured our time and force, which retarded other BO tasks and projects. The projects on tax incentives for patronage and on grants agencies as well as the launch of the survey on cultural centres will be launched or re-commenced a few weeks behind schedule.

Not to speak of the book sector survey.

Books sector survey
The survey of the Open Society Institute Budapest has been done year after year since 1996: see report .  BO, in its role of commissioned executioner, collected information on the year 2000. We are busy processing responses from 14 countries (several more are expected).

A few appetizers:

Over 40% of the price of an average book is spent on printing and paper in Lithuania, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan; for Croats and Slovaks this is less than 20%. Distribution takes 40% in Poland and Slovakia; at the other end the stake of Kyrgyz and Azeri bookseller is little more than 10%.

More than 70% of books are estimated to be bought in bookshops in Kyrgyzia, Czech Republic and Lithuania; in Bulgaria, Croatia and Tajikistan less than one third. What about the lower end? More than half of books are sold in kiosks, outdoor sales points and the like in Bulgaria and Tajikistan; this share is less than 10% in Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic and Lithuania.

You may see (and comment) these findings on the same URL pages in the next couple of weeks.

Formidable competitors
In addition to well established regular e-mail dispatches like the Creative Exchange Bulletin or ALERT, you could find new releases in your mailbox recently. Some of them cause us real delight, often mixed with jealousy at their perfection of design and contents.

Cyberkaris, the newsletter of the Interarts Foundation, is simple, laconic, functional and nice.

I find the Kulturdokumentation Newsletter a bit less user friendly.

At first Acorns of IFACCA looked just too fancy for the community of non-profit  cultural operators, most likely recipients. Later on I discovered that notwithstanding its breathtaking appearance (and probable costs), Acorns is quick and simple to handle, with less gaudy glamour than many other products.