Memo April 2009

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in April 2009

BO turned ten years old on the 22nd of April.

Jubilee chagrin

We are celebrating the fifth anniversary of the first wave of eastern enlargement of the European Union. We are glad, indeed. What could have made us feel even happier?

“The concept of ‘enlargement’ was flawed from the outset in 1989. At that point the issue should not have been the ‘enlargement’ of the Union but the unification of Europe: a grander, more imaginative, more historically appropriate, more generous project, more consistent with the ideals (as opposed to the timely pragmatism) of the post-war founders of the European Community. ‘Had the reunification of Europe happened 10 years ago, a huge positive charge of such idealism and enthusiasm would have flown into the European project from the liberated east…’”

Robin Guthrie, different from the musician with the same name, showed BO this text in 2004. (The quote within the quote is by T. Garton Ash.) The essay was published the following year. Robin died on Easter Sunday.

Diversify translation support

In April, a meeting was held in Brussels about the problems of literary translation. “The conference allowed stakeholders and professionals to exchange their views”, says the news piece. The text and the photo gallery imply rather that (invisible) stakeholders gathered to listen to important persons.

BO has strong views about the need to diversify and broaden the support that the Commission gives to translation. We advocate a more general, structural approach instead of the actual hand-picked grant system. The sustainability of creation in lesser spread, lesser spoken or minor languages should become the underlying objective. Use the opportunity that this memo is shorter than usual and read the related article.

Attention essemees

A flyer testifies about the strategic treatment of the language issue by the European Commission. Most of BO acquantainces are small enterprises, or maximum medium-size, thus as ‘SME-s’ can be among the target group of the leaflet. In this matter the culture sector is at both sides of the counter: provider and user. Indeed, you might want to send suggestions for the next edition of the leaflet about the place of culture (films, books, theatre…) in improving language proficiency. 

BO moves and learns

The ENCATC-led project on the impact of cultural mobility has entered the empirical stage. Having finalised the “instrument”, members of the team across Europe, including BO, started to interview artists with a mobility record about their motivation, expectations and experiences. If successful, the Moving and Learning project will come up with valuable addition to the studies by PEARLE and by ERICarts about the nature and problems of cultural mobility in Europe.

Awarded buildings

BO rejoiced over the fact that three out of five shortlisted buildings for the Mies van der Rohe award were culture venues. Finally, one of them, the new Oslo opera and ballet centre won: one more performing arts cathedral magnificently placed on waterfront.

The special mention of emerging architects went to the authors of a school building in the Croatian town of Koprivnica – following another educational venue from our region on the previous occasion.

Eastern compliance

By browsing the latest Eurobarometer report on the attitude of European students towards higher education reform (Bologna!), BO looked for the issue that divides east and west the most among the answers.


The majority of students in east and central Europe (over 80% in Hungary) approve the right of universities to select students that match their profile. Most of their western colleagues, on the other hand, think that universities should admit all students.

Is this a sign of loyalty? Lack of civic virtue? Or just pragmatic rationalism? Are there similar east-west patterns with regard to cultural organisations?

Let’s meet in summer

Twenty years after the fall of communism – cultural policy in central Europe will be the subject of the summer session at the International Cultural Centre in Cracow, between 8-19 July. The theme, the company, the time and place are all persuasive: don’t miss the deadline for This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., which is the 15th of May.