Memo December 2008


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

This is BO’s way of wishing happy 2009.

Mirage and reality

Last autumn Eurobarometer asked about citizens’ perceptions and wishes which wildly differ from the approved 2009 budget of the Union. (BO failed to identify what counts as spending on economic growth and employment: definitely much less than what citizens recommend.)

   Believed  Recommended  Approved
 Economic growth  24%  38% ?
 Employment  12% 36% ?
 Agriculture  24% 14%  30,7%
 Administration 26% 3% 4,8%
 Culture & media  4% 4% 0,4%

Out of 18 items culture (& media) was the only case when people believed that what the EU spends is what they, too, would propose: 4%. BO wonders if anyone knows what, in fact is the cultural spending of the Union, including cohesion and rural development sources. Our guess is a bit over 1%.

Eastern sobriety

What is going on in Spain and Greece? Excessive EU propaganda? Are people just so innocent? What makes them believe that 8% of the money of the Union is spent on culture and the media? The official budget for 2009 says: “Citizenship, including culture, media, public health and consumer protection €0.6billion”, about 0,45%. Even if people are right to include cultural items of regional and rural development – and what else? Wishes certainly not, because Greeks think that half that much (4%) would be sufficient.

The graph shows how much people – when asked by Eurobarometer – believed that the EU does and should spend on culture (& media). Strangely, the new members appear to be more realistic than the old ones. In two eastern countries only is there more than 2% difference between perception and recommendation. Romanians dream about three times as much as they believe culture is getting; while Latvians say 3% would be enough instead of 5%. Citizens of two great cultural nations would cut common cultural spending to a half or a third: France and the United Kingdom.



Two kinds of music rewarded

Here is an example of common cultural spending: the Union is awarding prizes to Border Breakers in music for the sixth time now. This time without a candidate from eastern Europe. Among the total of 57 winners between 2004-2008, three came from Poland and one from Hungary.

The Border Breakers sites don’t specify their music. Still, one feels that a Rachmaninov piano album would be out of place here. Conversely, the other tribe names itself: classical music. In those circles the Gramophone Award has probably the highest prestige. In the same 2004-2008 period the 63-item classical list, too, is dominated by western names, with five performers from Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine, plus one and a half (Takács) Hungarian orchestras.

Two ways of rewarding literature

From 2009 the EU will award literary prizes: a big one and twelve smaller ones, from twelve countries, if BO read the announcement correctly. A consortium comprising the European Booksellers Federation, the European Writers' Congress and the Federation of European Publishers will be in charge of the project.

Halma, another literary initiative, was created recently. BO was pleased to find fifteen out of the 27 member organisations from eastern Europe. The mobility scheme is attractive, too. BO was less pleased to find one only from the east among the first nine scholarship holders. (And six from Switzerland.) Concerning selection procedure the clearest thing is that “application is not possible”.

Creative year-labelling

The next thematic euro-year has been ushered in. Andy, CultureActionEurope columnist is not alone in trying to find out what the European Year of Creativity and Innovation can bring to culture. BO kept its habit of comparing the colourful culture sites with the more hardcore pages of Well, the European economic recovery plan, and responses to the financial crisis, adopted on the same week, do not know the word creativity. Innovation is used five times but KEA has warned us about the difference. Unless EU efforts to plug cultural creativity into economic success are more straightforward, we shall resort to attractions like the vegetable orchestra featured at the media launch.

Four cases

The Compendium of cultural policies and trends in Europe celebrated its 10th anniversary in Baku. The newsletter tells the story and presents latest changes in country profiles. BO picks out a few items from eastern Europe.

  • The Polish chapter does not flatter the past few ministers, boldly naming them and their missed opportunities. Nevertheless the latest reform in governance reform of public cultural institutions will be interesting to follow.
  • The analyst of Slovenia makes us worry about the impact of regional re-organisation on subsidising culture.
  • And what to think of the Latvian endeavours to establish the cultural canon of the nation?
  • BO wishes success to the Croatian culture ministry joining force with the economy ministry, which seems to be the best way to handle the culture industry slogan.

Four fronts

BO had to miss the jubilee meeting in Baku. Instead, we were busy on four fronts in December:

  • In Bilbao, we attended a meeting of the Encatc working group on cultural observatories.
  • In Budapest, BO was instrumental in organising a Unesco conference on adult learning, as a proof of the integration of socio-culture into culture policies in the east.
  • In Brussels, still in the frames of lifelong learning, BO took part in a meeting on artists’ mobility.
  • In Vilnius, cultural diplomacy was the subject of the seminar organised by the cultural contact point.

A propos the last topic: mapping cultural diplomacy in Europe, BO came across a really prominent centre. How come BO felt some relief not to find friends on the advisory and academic boards?

An atelier

Big names have a more positive effect in case of the forthcoming European atelier for young festival managers. Application deadline: 31st January.