Memo December 2011


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

You want good news? During the next several months each day will get lighter in Europe.

Three points on Creative Europe

1. An end must be put to well-intentioned trespassing: EU cultural policy makers must come out and explain that in addition to culture proper they have taken charge of a range of small and medium enterprises (the so-called creative sectors) that administratively do not belong to their jurisdiction.

2. They must elucidate how their attention and resources will be divided between enhancing the entrepreneurial dimension of the cultural and creative sectors on the one hand, and contributing to the flowering of the rest of culture on the other.

3. Top planners in the European Union should demonstrate more clearly that these endeavours are duly honoured. The prospected increase in the budget is one signal, indeed, but otherwise the mobilisation of the cultural and creative sectors finds little reflection in mainstream European strategy papers.

Comments on the proposals aiming at the future framework programme are elaborated at greater length in this paper. (From 2012 one more country is directly affected by the above: Albania.)

Heritage in images

For BO Wikipedia is one of the greatest innovations in our era. We are glad about the involvement of the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the Wiki Loves Monuments contest that – to our greatest satisfaction – produced a Romanian winner and an Estonian silver medalist. Characteristically to our region, both pictures present the beauty of decay. The jury accorded twelve awards and fourteen more honorable mentions. Among the altogether 169 finalists there were four eastern countries, represented here by a randomly selected picture each:   



Nearly the same number of pictures, over 130 000 were reported at the Heritage and Landscape photographic contest for teenagers that dates back sixteen years. The presentation of the photos, however, is much less user friendly than above (you must click on the name of the country in the catalogue). 

European festival distinctions

The European Festivals Association (EFA) presented a proposal for a pilot project on festivals at EU level to the Members of the European Parliament at the Committee on Culture and Education. The dismal record at the Culture Programme was also raised on this occasion, too: about 700 festivals apply, and only around 30 get a grant. The proposal foresees an exclusive European festival award: about 45 bi-annually, too many to my mind, in the light of the planned European festival label, a sort of quality assessment to a greater number of events. BO, deeply involved in festival rating, read the suggested criteria at the end of the draft with great interest.

The proposal foresees the publication of a Festival Guide, an EU Award ‘Festivals for Europe’ and an EU Label. Its aim is to add value to the festival scene and to allow the European project to benefit from the dynamics of festivals at the same time.

Shall we remain the same?

In December Eurobarometer disclosed its 76th standard poll. Out of the dozens of items BO picked one. Citizens were asked what in various regards the EU means to them. The diagram shows which percentage of people said that the European Union meant to them “loss of their cultural identity”.

The three columns give the percentage shares in spring 2008, summer 2009 and autumn 2011. (By enlarging at 150% the graph reads beautifully.) The crisis does not seem to affect anxieties about national identity: it worried 11% of Europeans before the outbreak; the EU average is at 12% now.

Post-communist eastern countries tend to be rather indifferent about the Union’s threat to their cultural identity. 5% of Poles express such fear only – it is up to you to decide whether it is a sign of profound trust in their Polishness, or the opposite: yearning for a broader (European) identity. A third option is finding the identity issue irrelevant, even maybe silly.

Czechs and Slovaks used to sit on the EU average but by now they both express concern at higher frequencies: 15% of respondents. (The wild wavering in the Estonian figures may imply a measurement error.) The identity frenzy of Croats astonished BO earlier, too, and it remains an odd phenomenon.

The show has nevertheless been taken by the Austrians. Almost every fourth of them believes that the European Union is a threat to their cultural identity. Why? The same dilemma as at the other (Polish) end of the scale: a signal of unsecurity or of increasing national cohesion?

Noteworthy is the rapid convergence of the Irish and the British. And finally the Greeks, torn and tussled amidst vicissitudes, they demonstrate constancy in the level of their cultural anxiety.