Memo November 2001

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of The Budapest Observatory (BO) in November 2001

Dear Colleagues,

I doubt if last autumn was as busy as this one, as rich in events related to cultural policy as in September-December 2001.

Volunteers of the world
Newcastle hosted this year's Circle Round Table, run together with VAN: the British association of volunteers in the arts - and this was the subject, indeed. Many people came eager to know what the others meant by volunteering: surprisingly, the term 'volunteer' often sounded like a less patronising synonym for 'amateur'. Or, as people from ex-soviet lands sourly remarked, a cultural worker on state pay-roll. 

President Dorota
Circle held its assembly in Newcastle and upon the expiry of the former president's term, a new one was elected: a nice lady replacing a nice lady. Except that this time we moved a bit westward...

This was meant to be a silly geographical joke. Warsaw lies indeed further to the west than Helsinki[1], yet Dorota was fully right when she emphasised that in her person the first Eastern president followed Ritva (whose affinity towards the East is again very well known).

Tyrolean air
The Austrian government invited senior cultural administrators from the eastern half of Europe to sunny, chilly Innsbruck in the middle of November. Theme for discussion was business and the arts. I am not sure if I could convince anyone of the main finding of BO inquiry on the topic; namely that beneficial tax regimes more often come as a reward of a rise of sponsorship than the other way round... Yes, further research is needed.

Mosaic, encore
Still in Innsbruck, participants at the evaluation seminar of the three-year Council of Europe project on cultural policies in south-east Europe, got acquainted with plans for the future. A number of countries are likely to go ahead with full-fledged programmes, others can benefit in a more diffuse and decentralised way. If those plans are approved, Mosaic 2 will act as a fund for co-operating cultural organisations in the region.

Librarians from Kosovo
Still in the frames of Mosaic 1, a four-day seminar was held in Budapest for 16 librarians from Kosovo. The Hungarian librarian community was responsible for the contents and BO staff for everything else. By far the most energy was spent on securing entry visas for every participant.

Quarterly policies for culture
The October newsletter (http://www.policiesforculture.org/October.pdf) carries a detailed presentation of the Romanian Cultural Fund - referring also to earlier BO research, one more incentive to continue. We learn from front page news that while basic constitutional issues were still unresolved, at civic initiative a major national debate was organised in Skopje on cultural strategies for Macedonia.

Moldova, twice
The same newsletter reports about a similar event, held in Chisinau, with official endorsement, international participation and supported by various Soros bodies, discussing the case of cultural institutions. Two weeks later a national debate was held in Chisinau, with official endorsement, international participation and supported by the Council of Europe. I have met enthusiastic participants from both.

Kulturni razvitak
This is the title of the red-headed A/3 bulletin of the Croatian ministry of culture on development issues, transparent and full of clear intentions. South-east Europe is swarming now with cultural policy. The latest issue of Culturelink reports on an international conference in spring on cultural identities and on 22 November the next one was due to begin in Zagreb on 'advocating culture' (see quarterly above).

Diversity adopted
On the global arena the general conference of Unesco adopted a universal declaration on cultural diversity, which director general Matsuura compared to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its concise presentation is being edited for www.budobs.org/unesco-observer.

EU observer
Five waves of cultural policy events at varying amplitude are following one another in Brussels in these weeks, as the Laeken summit is getting closer. The Brussels forum on cultural cooperation is over, the next four are still ahead: the general assembly of the European Forum for the Arts & Heritage (EFAH), a training session on the European Arena (practically on EU cultural actions), a workshop at Heyzel and finally a cultural NGO debate. The issue of enlargement is tackled at each of these, a sound reason for many participants from east-central Europe.

Chapter 20
The EU has brought out its balance sheet on every accession country. Culture, as before, occupies a tiny place, covering almost exclusively radio and television legislation matters. Sizes are mysterious: out of the east-central European countries the report on Latvia is longest (pp 132) while Estonia is the shortest (pp 108), everyone else in between. Is the Estonian case so simple and neighbouring Latvia so complicated? Chapter 20 on culture is less than one page in each case. For more, see www.budobs.org/eu-observer.

Buda or Pest?
Many of you will be pleased to learn that we seem to succeed in moving the venue of our conference on culture and EU accession (bigger... better... beautiful?) next February to the Pest side, overlooking the Danube, in the middle of the world heritage area. As soon as it is finally decided, this will be breaking news at www.budobs.org/eu-conference.


[1] For those who are not tired of the theme, here is two more riddles: which is closest to the east from Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn? And Tbilisi or Erevan?