Memo May 2009

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

Almost every news item is connected to the Council of Europe or the European Union.

Ever growing compendium

The latest newsletter of the Compendium (of cultural policies and trends in Europe) presents the most important new features of this flagship cultural project of the Council of Europe. This site has grown more than a “compendium” of (regularly updated and homogenously made) country profiles. Just to point at an important improvement: the statistics section uses sources other than the national profiles, like the European Audiovisual Observatory or the Creative Economy Report of UNCTAD (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), data are presented in comparative tables and graphs, but also collected on a quick facts page (another new element) before each of the now 41 country profiles.  

The international team behind the project met in Madrid in May, including BO.

The 2941st Council meeting

The culture agenda of the customary six-monthly ritual of the culture ministers of the EU was thinner than usual.

A policy paper was adopted on creativity. Instead of the usual protocol celebration, the document carries compelling statements like “strategic investment in culture is vital for creating jobs and enabling the fulfilment of the Lisbon goals”. Also: “it is of strategic importance to further promote synergies between the cultural sector and other sectors”. The paper (in principle the Council of the European Union) “invites the Commission to further explore the close – but still largely underestimated – links between culture, creativity and economic performance”, and “to continue mainstreaming culture as a catalyst for creativity and innovation across other relevant policy areas”.

Good words.

As a positive innovation, the 27 ministers (or their proxies) were invited to enter into a “public exchange of view” on creative content online, particularly on the hot issue of web piracy. Nevertheless, instead of debating eventual opposing views, or revealing conflicting attitudes, they (or the composer of the report) resorted to diplomatic platitudes like “ministers stressed that media literacy is a key skill” – now we know. 

Bright prospects

Culture policy talks between China and Europe were reported at both ends. Cultural industries were in the focus – want to join in and make your fortune?

Label top down

To counter the derision over the poor fate of the European heritage label, BO appreciates how the Commission is treating the case. The programme of the public meeting with organisations from the cultural heritage field (Brussels, 10 June) implies that the relevant Directorate General (DG EAC) really means to bring the best out of what began as a typical politicians’ whim. Looking forward to the outcome of the process promised for July.

Label bottom up

There is a sort of European heritage label that indeed grew out of grass roots. Europa Nostra has been rewarding exemplary heritage restoration acts since 1978. In 2002 this turned into an official award of the European Union. Out of the 33 prizes since 2002, seven came to our region, of which four to Romania – no other country has a higher score (Spain has the same four).  

Sadly, eastern prospects are dire this year, with only three (Czech, Slovak, Hungarian) among the 28 candidates for the seven top prizes in 2009.

Slow spread

Another piece of heritage news is about Bosnia ratifying the framework convention on the value of cultural heritage for society of the Council of Europe. When the text was approved four years ago in Faro, Portugal, greater impact and quicker ratification was expected. Beyond the “objective” worth of heritage items, stressed in the Granada, Valletta and Strasbourg conventions, the Faro agreement focuses on the particular value of heritage to specific communities or certain social purposes.

Western Europe does not seem to like it – except for Norway. The remaining seven ratifiers belong to BO remit of interest: post-totalitarian countries. 

Cultural tourism goes virtual

Culturelink, one of the models for the creation of BO, holds its third world conference in November. Their site announces an uncommon book, comparing the impact of the Internet on cultural tourism and the state of on-line sales in the culture sectors in nine countries in South-East Europe.

Champions of transparency

Next week, many of you will vote for the European Parliament. A fellow observatory has checked along its own scale how the 785 MEPs (members of the European Parliament) behaved with regard to openness and fairness. In preparation for the elections, the usual graph has been generated for BO memo, where this time eastern countries do not group at one end, which happens so often: Slovak and Hungarian MEPs blended smoothly among mediterranean colleagues. The average of 732 MEPs – without Bulgarians and Romanians, who have served for a shorter while only (nevertheless their individual scores can also be checked) – was 22,2 points on the Open Europe scale.