Memo December 2006


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

BO memo refuses to be funny, even on the 31st of December.

Diversity versus trade
Culture and world trade, WTO - GATS - GATT - TRIPS. How complicated and boring it can be when lawyers explain them. No wonder artsy folks prefer to 
translate cultural diversity into more digestable terms like urban multiculturalism or the topical intercultural dialogue.

Cupore took the challenge and invited specialists (lawyers mainly!) to the 2006 Round Table of Circle , held in December in Helsinki. The title of a "delicate dialogue between free trade and cultural diversity" proved to be adequate. Instead of further battles, most experts advised to find ways in the frames of the status quo. Exploit the political potentials created by the convention and watch out when world trade negotiations gain new momentum.

Experts from the host country pointed at an interesting aspect. Cultural policy is taboo in the European Union. However, the EU acted as one party with regard to an international agreement for the first time in case of this Unesco convention. Now the convention happens to be the first international agreement with direct cultural policy implication. Therefore the EU found itself in a position where it had to deal directly with issues of cultural policy, ha-ha.

BO pointed out that the convention is eloquent about the right to protect states' cultures "in their territory". Which, similarly to the opening sentence of EU article 151, lends itself to isolationism of frozen identities. Openness to other cultures is relegated to the second half of subpara 7/1/b of the text.

Diversity champion Barroso
As time passed in Helsinki, some participants felt uneasy about the abstract level of the discussion and demanded concrete examples of the delicate dialogue between big business and diversity.

One could find a few recently. Here is Barroso's opposition to the proposal of single market commissioner McCreevy to gradually remove blank tape levies and similar measures. While copyright organisations want to extend levies to ever newer types of technical devices (copiers, printers, discs etc) in order to compensate artists for pirated and free consumption of their creations, manufacturers argue for their abolition. They point at the United Kingdom, which refrains from copyright levies.    

Diversity champion Lévai
Here is another case when business arguments are contested in the name of diversity. The
draft report to the European Parliament criticises a 2005 recommendation of the European Commission, which, in the true spirit of the single market, removed the frontiers between national managing societies of collective rights. Rapporteur Lévai argues that the measure has had "adverse effects on smaller right-holders and cultural diversity" .

BO finds it symptomatic that the Unesco convention was not mentioned among the many agreements cited by the report. 

Diversity champion Orban?
Should be! Commissioner for multilingualism from January on, the man from the new member state Romania
promised to pursue an active and broad language policy.

Kuneva, commissioner for consumer affairs on behalf of Bulgaria, will have less chance to act for cultural diversity.

Festivals in focus
members present in Helsinki approved that festival policies of public authorities should be the topic of the 2007 Round Table. If the Commission contibutes financially (the application has been submitted), that might become a similarly fruitful Circle event.

Preparations will take place in the frames of the European festival research project (EFRP), which had its last meeting in Le Mans, attached to the annual gathering of France Festivals in the medieval Epau abbey. Among others, preliminary findings of a national survey on the French festival scene were presented, producing obvious vibrations at BO.

The smaller EFRP meeting that followed the French colloque analysed aspects of sustainability of festivals, which BO did on the basis of Hungarian data.

Figures in focus
Regardless of methodological variations,
OECD and other counts invariably tell that the copyright sector adds more to the gross national (and European) product than agriculture, which still occupies a much greater share of every kind of attention. Yet we talk about measuring culture to each other, because the interest of high bodies is just about to wake.

The programme of the workshop on the international measurement of culture held in the Paris headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) expresses the intensity of the two days (attended by BO). To the memorable moments belong those when experts passionately argued which set of statistics is less reliable; or when the UK concoction of creative industries was declared with similar fervour a media sexy synonim of the copyright sector.   

Opinions in focus
latest Eurobarometer poll shows as if opinions turned upside down in our region. The Polish and Czech political establishments often demonstrate euroscepticism: and lo, the public in both countries considers membership beneficial well above the EU average of 54%! The only eastern countries below the average are Hungary (41%), whose government is staunchly loyal to the EU, and Croatia (42%), eager to get admitted. 

When asked whether things are going in the right direction in the EU, only 33% of Europeans answered positively. The three biggest countries were the most pessimistic. On the other hand, the eastern countries appear to be the psychological drivers of the Union, producing 52%. Even Hungary, which (temporarily?) lost its political confidence this autumn, was above the European average. 

Euro-optimism is usually attached to "higher" social status, especially education. This should flatter us in this region. Also we are open to having more partners: people in big countries oppose further admissions, the EU average is 46%, while the public in the eastern countries is clearly pro-enlargement, from cautious Estonians (59%) up to generous Poles (76%).

More controversial are the figures that testify about our low level of tolerance. The issue of homosexual marriages divides Europe the widest, ranging from 82% support in the Netherlands down to 11% in Romania. Eastern countries are below the 44% average. The pattern is the same about the legalisation of cannabis, with eastern countries below the 26% average.

Czechs aloof
Except for Czechs. In the last two issues they act (opine) like in western Europe.