Memo October 2011


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in October 2011


There is some grumbling in the middle of this newsletter 

Quite satisfied

As they were asked, hundreds of participants of the European Culture Forum affirmed that fostering (professional) links is for them the main reason to attend – “and that is very good!”, commented (p.18) one delegate. (Und das ist auch gut so “ – had said a popular politician, not exactly in this context.)

And good it was. The Commission should keep this custom, offering a forum (indeed agora) for useful networking, combined with panel discussions (this time addressing topical questions for culture in the current context of economic crisis and globalisation), and communciations about measures planned for the future.

Less satisfied

An independent voice, however, thought that “the Forum has missed an opportunity to show the importance of culture in the European project, the requirement of solidarity, fraternity as corollary of a European identity. The EU 2020 Strategy is architecture without culture.”

Is it? Let us check the drafts for the next seven years of the EU Structural Funds.

Quite dissatisfied

The result is depressing. As if the creative sector had not been visioned as our saviour, as if there had been no European year dedicated to creativity. As if our conferences, manifestos had not taken place. As if a few months ago the Council had not advocated the use of the Structural Funds to recognise the potential of culture as “driver for development in regions and cities”. The two recently disclosed twenty-page proposals on how to spend the €376 billion planned for 2014-2020 – one on regional development (ERDF) and one on the European Social Fund (ESF) – do not contain the words creative, creativity!

Culture is mentioned once only, in the phrase of “protecting, promoting and developing cultural heritage”, in the context of “promoting resource efficiency” and measured by the “number of visits at supported sites”. This recalls the language and thinking of the millennium years. Culture = cultural tourism.

Will cultural operators – artists, librarians, museum and drama educators, animators etc. – and their institutions act again under cover of educational organisations or find other stratagems to work for the growth and jobs objectives of the Union? 

Slight hope

Some hope is offered by the ESF paper with the promise of promoting social innovation “with the aim of testing and scaling up innovative solutions to address social needs”.

The proposals are before the European Parliament. Its members and the Member States are free to add words like the following:

In the frames of promoting small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the ERDF shall exploit the potential of cultural and creative industries in generating cutting edge innovative design, technologies, products and services;

Or: The ERDF shall enhance the quality of information and communication technologies (ICT) by digitising cultural heritage and creating other globally competitive digital content;

Or again: The ESF shall use the specifics of culture to develop and apply innovative solutions to address social challenges.


Stout critique

Most of you will fully agree to adding the creative industries to the targets of Structural Fund subsidies. A few of you, however, nurture some discomfort about the hype. This skepticism will find ample food in an interesting book that includes critique of applying the concept in Austrian, British, as well as EU cultural policies. (Relentless castigation of neo-liberalism over 234 pages.) 

Stout position

It is so hard to be dogmatic. Especially when one hears such a brilliant concert from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, as Culture forum delegates did. But still, I find this privileged position highly dysfunctional. The EU should not run orchestras, as it does not run colleges, farms, airlines, or water-polo teams. There is no excuse for setting such a formidable rival to the remaining European orchestras on an increasingly difficult scene.

Rich guide

On the move and Practics brought out a large guide to cultural mobility. 43 various funding opportunities are presented in Austria, the first country in the list, which is significantly more than the 12 items contained in a similar screening done three years earlier by ERICarts. The difference is not always that remarkable, as our comparison of the number of items in the east European countries in the two collections shows.

  ERICarts 2008 On the move / Practics 2011
Bulgaria 15 14
Croatia 5 5
Czech Rep. 9 17
Estonia 10 12
Hungary 10 13
Latvia 7 13
Lithuania 10 10
Macedonia 3 5
Montenegro 0 9
Poland 12 20
Romania 15 7
Serbia 9 0
Slovakia 5 5
Slovenia 10 6


The variations do not necessarily reflect changes in the offer, rather the differences in the approach of the two reports: the 2008 list was an annex to a broader review of cultural mobility in Europe. 

Young talent

Congratulations to Aleksandar for his Cultural Policy Research Award (the 8th in a row), to Thomas for the 1st Mark Schuster Prize, as well as to Alexandra, the only eastern winner of the Border Breaker award.