Memo June 2008


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

As almost often, the main value of this memo is in the linked material. Click for summer reading.

Brave Bulgarians, protective Cypriots
The first results of the latest general Eurobarometer survey have just come out. BO fished for items relating to culture – and this time found four very relevant questions.

  • Globalisation represents a threat to your national culture (39%)
  • Globalisation enables people to be more open to external cultures (62%)
  • There are no common European values, only global western values (44%)
  • In terms of shared values, European Union Member States are close to each other (54%)

The figures in brackets stand for European affirmative averages. You will find more shades for these complex issues in the report. See the percentage of positive answers gained from citizens in the member states with regard to the first statement.


Over 60% of Cypriots and the Greek think that globalisation is a menace to their national culture. Also, more than 50% of the French, Slovenes, Estonians and British (!) believe the same. At the other end, less than a third of Poles, Turks (!) and Germans fear their culture from global threats. Not to speak of self-confident Bulgarians. (Or is it the contrary: our culture can only be improved from outside?)

Eurobarometer embarrasses
Where is the embarrassment? Till now, BO regularly found proofs in these opinion polls about the specificity of the eastern countries. Not now. Both extremes of the scale are occupied by eastern countries, even if Cypriots and the Greek are not “eastern” in the cold war terminology, which is observed by BO.

Furthermore, there are no post-communist clusters on the ranges of answers given to the other three selected items, too. Has common historical legacy evaporated? The end of (this) history?

By the way, the 65% of Irish, with a blatantly positive image of the Union in April-May (surpassed only by Romanian affection for the EU), little corroborates the credibility of Eurobarometer polls.

Commission came to Budapest
Thus BO had an opportunity to attend an info-day on cultural funding. The event was thoroughly prepared, well attended and received. Simplification of application procedures and the release of a compact information guide were particularly welcome.

In fact, it is about small money. The annual grants correspond roughly to that of the Hungarian and Estonian cultural funds combined. For BO taste the PR-endeavours connected to Culture 2007-2013 are a bit oversized. Various aspects of transparency, on the other hand, are still less than dreamt for by an information-thirsty observatory.
The water-polo team of the European Union
Why, indeed, there isn’t one? Or rather an EU squadron of majorettes, with girls from 27 member states?
BO went almost this far in sacrilege in Ljubljana, while discussing the ambassador category of the list of cultural organisations found to be particularly active at European level, and worthy of financial support for one or three years. The general mood of that gathering (linked to the semiannual ritual jamboree of cultural contact point staffs) appeared to be sympathetic too of BO reservation with regard to court orchestras for the Union. No wonder, as it was an advocacy gathering for cultural networks.

Civil society efforts
BO is much more supportive about another “strand” of Commission support, provided to three structured dialogue platforms, which all met in June. An exciting experiment: will networks be able to produce documents that match what civil servants, members of parliament or expert workshops usually produce? The three themes are intercultural dialogue, access to culture and cultural industries.

Cultural or creative, industries and what else?
There has been an awful lot of noise around these concepts lately. All this started in 1947, when Theodor Adorno coined the word Kulturindustrie. What did he mean by this? How did the term turn into cultural industries – what to our ears sounds today as an ingenious chant word invented for sake of getting more funding for culture? And how this evolved into creative … name it? Justin tells the whole story. Some of us will read it through during vacation (nice illustrations!).

And what next?
We have been accustomed to one victory report after the other about the advances of the creative sector at the expense of less successful areas of the economy. Then comes an article and says that in one of the most advanced countries in Europe the cultural sector is having a smaller share of the domestic product than it had earlier, just before 2000: over 3.5% then, against 3.18% in 2006. Finns are awful when so sober.