Memo November 2010


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in November 2010

Presenting and commenting things emanating from Brussels.

What to do next?

During their 3046th meeting culture ministers of EU member states agreed on a four-year work plan for culture. Some of the planned work will take the form of meetings of experts who are delegated by the culture ministers, to discuss fairly obvious and sensible topics. Some of the work is called OMC: open method of coordination, and some of it is indeed worth the public money it costs.

Some tasks are addressed to the Commission. Those include interesting topics:

- A study on the effect of subtitling films (that is keeping the original soundtrack of films) on foreign language learning;

- Another study on art valuation; 

- And one on media literacy – whatever it is;

- Establishing alliance with the enterprise sector on creative industries (to please BO);

- Establishing (maybe) culture sector councils, bodies that include employers, trade unions and other stakeholders.   

How to do it?

The same meeting 3046 produced a document on what culture can do about poverty. Whether you want to be assured about culture’s chances in that game, or you seek proven methods – you will rather read the usual “recommendations”.

Combatting poverty is linked to employment – this is rightly acknowledged in part B of the text. “Skills acquired in the cultural sector as a route into employment” sounds nevertheless strange. Doing culture or being touched by culture can help develop the necessary disposition for employment – this is at least as important (see a not too distant analogy).

How to name it?

BO reported about a conference on culture and poverty in October. The contributions are now available. The one by BO ends with the wish that community cultural animation should be acknowledged as an important constituent of the sector, and win emancipation in EU discourse and action. The above reviewed EU document also struggles with the term: it uses cultural mediation, nevertheless you get confused if you search for definition on the net.

How to call professionals – and their institutions – who act for the stimulation of the cultural activities of citizens, especially those in poverty and social exclusion? Socio-culture? Cultural animation? The issue concerns eastern Europe, where this is a stable constituent of cultural policies. (Once BO made a careful step in the issue.)

Digital advances

Still the same EU document addresses local cultural centres. However, only in the context of improving info-communication skills of the excluded (together with public libraries).

Help would also be needed for bridging the east-west digital gap, at least as far as our presence in Europeana is concerned. We were shocked by the dismal record of the new EU member states a year ago. Today the general output of the scheme is impressive, and the embarrassing lag behind France is smaller – yet our region remains on the margin. (The percentages show the division of the 14 million items in the digital collection among countries.)



Opinions welcome

Decisions with long term relevance are in the making these days. One of them affects the future of the Culture Programme. There are a few days left of the online consultation. Please, participate and share your opinion with the European Commission. If you want to exercise before, Geoffrey’s gym is recommended. Besides admiring an elaborate structure proposed for the next seven years, you can read interesting comments there, and BO’s preliminary thoughts. 

Grass root democracy goes on. The next deadline is 12 January. You can advise on the future of the European capitals of culture. We shall try to influence assist you in the next memo.

Prelude to

As an early prelude to the Hungarian presidency of the council of the EU, a one-day international conference was held in the Parliament of the country about diversity, one of the priorities announced by Hungary. The section where BO sat observed an uncommon aspect of cultural diversity (in fact of traditional minorities): their economic potential.


So much about EU matters. For a change, here are two opportunities that would take you outside the European Union (outside of the continent in fact). One of the deadlines is pretty close. To have a chance, you must be a young festival organiser.