Memo October 2006


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in October 2006

The neighbourhood of BO office (that opens directly to the street) swarmed with demonstrations during October. Now this seems to be over.

Parliament votes on big money
Probably the most important development in European cultural affairs in October was that on the 24th and 25th the parliament voted on cultural chapters of the next seven-year plan. A year ago we hoped for €400 million for Culture 2007-2013 - the Parliament voted for 354.

In the same memo last November we wished to keep the €1000 million target for MEDIA in the next seven years; so did culture ministers and the Commission. The Parliament thought differently and agreed on €671 million.

It will take some time before we fully understand what the programme Europe for Citizens is about. Parliament secured €190 million (more than half of the cultural co-operation programme that we know what is about), with the promotion of intercultural dialogue among the main goals.

Parliament pilots space
Parliament adopted a list of projects including Euroglobe (a pilot project on an itinerant Globe theatre aiming to promote an open European space for debate, culture and study). Interesting. Who knows more?

Festival for jubilee
The Commission contributes €1,5 million to "Europalia" Europa 2007 festival, organised in Brussels to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Europalia appears to be a sort of public - non-profit private partnership that has been able to arrange important festivals in Brussels since 1969.

It is not easy to judge amounts at first hearing. As a benchmark, here is the top of the table with subsidies the central authorities gave to the leading festivals in Hungary in 2006:


Million euro Total budget Government support
Budapest Spring Festival 4,6 0,7
Szeged Open Air Festival 2,4 0,4
Miskolc International Opera Festival 1,2 0,4


Source: BO survey on festivals in Hungary.

Logo for jubilee
The logo to commemorate the 50th anniversary is colourful, inventive and is the brainchild of Szymon from our region. See the runners up. (BO would have voted for Jurate or Matti.)

The organisers did not avoid the cliché: when do a campaign, involve young artists. Why? Everyone over 30 is passé? They cost more? In most cases this move just serves to exhibit the youthfulness of the decision makers. The 62-year-old MEP jubilated: "we were right to put our confidence in young people to help us design the Europe of tomorrow." This success could have been more convincing if it had happened in an open competition with grey haired decadent artists.   

Hüva, härra president!
One MEP said good-bye to colleagues in Strasbourg and Brussels and returned home to be president of his republic.

Before he left, President Ilves of Estonia considered that his biggest achievement in the European Parliament was to make the voice of the new member states heard; while the biggest failure „is the weak cooperation of the new member states". Well said, Mr President.

Introvert Czechs
The Eurobarometer tested the citizens of the EU about their personal neighbourhood policies. It appears that nearly half have none, in the sense that they have little or no interest in what is happening in neighbouring countries of the EU.

More warming to the heart is that 72% of EU citizens would agree with further enlargement provided the process does not go too fast. This caution is shown also in the opinion of 70% that the EU should offer other neighbouring countries a different type of relationship which falls short of full membership. Compared to related findings earlier, these are are promising signals for countries like Ukraine or Georgia.

However, in a longer perspective, Europeans are less supportive to preferential neighbourhood policies. Only 36% believe in the need for specific relationships with countries outside EU borders when the current enlargement process ends: Czechs are the strongest opponents, followed by Slovaks (65%, like also in Sweden.) Furthermore 93% of Czechs (and Germans) are convinced that the costs of EU assistance to neighbouring countries will be too high. Most of Belgians, Danes and Italians, on the other hand, see the EU's relationship with neighbouring countries as a win-win situation.

European values revisited
This time inserted into the Eurobarometer questionnaire on neighbourhood policy. Citizens were picking values from a menu. They arrived at the triad of human rights, peace and democracy being most dear to Europeans (followed at a distance by market economy, rule of law, respect for human life, economic prosperity and so on.)

President Barroso, Chancellor Schröder and Minister Fischer emphasised similar values (also in the context of EU's relationship with the world) at the 2004 Soul for Europe conference in Berlin, which sounded more impressive and convincing to BO than what they said about culture.

BO wonders how people in China, Pakistan or Mexico would rate those values? Which further values would they wish to add to the menu?

Helsinki, Timisoara, Bologna
Three cities that saw BO delegations in October. About the two successful and enjoyable conferences in Helsinki (EFAH) and in Bologna (observatories) the next memo will offer more pretexts to write.

The meeting in Timisoara demonstrated that the Barcelona process exemplified by the Agenda 21 movement is not an isolated case. Sigma and Partenalia are both active in local culture and related to Barcelona and Catalonia: they agreed in Timisoara to integrate their operations in the future.