Memo May 2008


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in May 2008


Longer than usual, after a busy May.

Changing name
By the time this memo hits your postbox, the old website of the European forum for the arts and heritage (EFAH) is replaced by one bearing the new name of Culture Action Europe. This change was announced at the Trans Europe Halles (TEH) network meeting in Brussels, where also Euronews (ours of the several euronews) was launched, a digital bulletin board with BO as a partner.  

Changing impression
BO got the impression in 2003 that member halles – cultural centres – of TEH cared more about artistic goals than about their neighbourhood. Now the TEH site announces a meeting (14 June, Halles de Schaerbeek, Brussels) on the participative artistic practices between cultural venues and their neighbourhood. East-central Europe will be present, as customary at TEH. In 2009 both network meetings will be held in our region (Łaźnia Nowa in Cracow and Stanica in Žilina).  

By demonstration of similar attachment to the region, the European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC) organised its Shortcut Europe 08 conference at the Pécs Cultural Centre, involving BO. ENCC – whose nice logo has astral connotations like BO’s – was also pinpointed in the 2003 paper.

More on festivals
The past weeks saw some steps in the life of EFRP – the European festival research project. A rich collection of files on festival matters is available now from the site of the EFRP programme. Also available is the final report of the Festival Jungle - Policy Desert? conference (2007 November, Barcelona).

Urban green culture
The initiative of Jüri Ratas, former mayor of Tallinn, has borne fruit: the European Green Capital Award was established on 22 May. Cities from Croatia and Macedonia as EU candidates can also apply. Among the criteria one relates to culture: “availability of local public open areas”. Now it is about a title and an award; we believe that in the future the green capitals will celebrate their titles with community festivities including Critical Mass, water festivals and sustainable cultural events. 

Statistical hesitation
The Urban Audit called on national statistical offices in all the EU member countries to work together in order to compile indicators on the quality of life in European cities.

BO wishes success to efforts that persuade statisticians to include cultural phenomena (without which there is no quality of life) into their scope of observation. Expectations are held at bay by the funny footnote to the work plan for culture of the Council of the EU. The text says “Eurostat will re-launch the activities of the statistical working group on culture”. The footnote says “the final decision has not yet been taken by Eurostat”.

Meeting for the 2868th time
This work plan for culture is one among the documents adopted at the 2868th meeting of the Council of the EU, held on 21 May. For people like BO memo readers, this file is worth downloading and running through. The items are familiar. New is Annex 2, which calls on the member states to huddle into smaller buzz groups to work on selected items of the work plan – this appears to be the realisation of the open method of coordination, heralded in the May 2007 Commission communication "A European agenda for culture in a globalizing world". 

Languages in the fore
The same 2868th education, youth and culture council meeting adopted one more important document on culture: “conclusions” on intercultural competences. When identifying those competences, the paper is picking from the list in the annex of the EU document on key competences for lifelong learning: communication in foreign languages, social and civic competences, and cultural awareness and expression.

The Council, among others, invites the member states to promote the learning of their national languages in other Member States. This approval of cultural expansionism should be extended to the promotion of quality translation. BO believes that translating from works written in less spoken languages should matter more than into those languages (whereas the Culture programme favours the latter). 

The next product of the 2868th meeting of the Council is fully dedicated to languages. This, among others, contains a sentence that is in line with the previous issue: “Quality interpretation and translation is needed to ensure efficient communication between speakers of different languages, while greater attention should be paid to linguistic considerations in the marketing and distribution of goods and services, in particular audiovisual media services.”

Culture in the fore?
And this is not all. The 2868th meeting of the Council of the European Union produced “conclusions” on promoting creativity through education. Accustomed to culture’s potentials being neglected, BO found delight in spotting frequent signs that this time the Council counts on culture.

Some examples in the text: “supporting networks and partnerships between education and related areas such as culture”; “turn the increasing multiculturalism of European societies into an asset for creativity”; “promote cultural production, intercultural dialogue and cooperation with a view to developing environments especially conducive to creativity and innovation”; “the role of culture in supporting and fostering creativity and innovation must be explored and promoted”.

And a full sentence to end with: “The European Council looks forward to the Commission's proposal for a renewed Social Agenda which should play a key role in strengthening the social dimension of the Lisbon Strategy by taking account of Europe's new social and labour realities and also covering issues such as youth, education, migration and demography as well as intercultural dialogue.”

Which watch?
In May, another Council in Europe launched an operation that can ensure that noble ideas will indeed turn into action, and not limited to the EU family only. BO welcomes CultureWatchEurope

Activeness rewarded
The European Commission disclosed the list of cultural organisations found to be particularly active at European level, and worthy of financial support for one or three years. We shall come back on the list, after the relevant discussion on cultural networks in Ljubljana.