Memo January 2012


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in January 2012

Your personal copy, out of 3263.

Danes preside

Responsible, dynamic, green and safe: this is how the Danish presidency pictures a better Europe. Culture can best contribute to, and profit from the first two. Probably.
As to cultural (and audio-visual) goals, the priorities for the next six months echo the actual agendas of the European Commission without a unique focus.

Profiles updated

The past few weeks have seen the updates of the national cultural policy profiles on the Compendium web site, among others Austria, Croatia, Serbia and Poland.
BO did Hungary. Never before was it so difficult to produce the update. Not because of political sensitivity (e.g. by force of the new constitution a cultural association has been elevated to the rang on a par with the 189-year old Academy of Sciences), but rather because the traditional opacity of official information in this country is coupled with an ongoing flux of changes.

Each update adds new layers to the profiles which has swelled some of them to a volume that is hard to consume. As to new information, the Austrian update seems to have the most flesh.

Range of concentration

Updated Compendium profiles incited BO to do a bit of comparison. We went through chapters 6.2.2. and picked out the share that the central government takes from public finances of culture, where there was such data from 2008 or later.



The width of the range is astonishing. The distinction of post-communist countries (in orange) is irrelevant here. The most noteworthy phenomenon is the high degree of centralisation in the Nordic democracies. This, however is perhaps explained by a note in the Finnish profile. This says that indeed 51.2% is divided by the ministry, but only 19% is spent directly, the rest is re-allocated for end uses to lower levels, including the civil sector.

The champions of decentralisation, Spain and Poland, do not channel money through their central governments: regions and cities dispose of well over 80% of public funds.

Heritage paled

A link at the bottom of the heritage chapter of the profiles usually leads you to a twin collection, to national heritage policy profiles. Those have not become any better since the comparison appeared to be so disadvantageous two years ago. The latest update appears to have taken place years ago.

(The term heritage is used variously. Here two opposite meanings prevail: Compendium includes libraries and archives, while the European Heritage Network limits itself to the protection of built heritage, what used to be alternatively called as ‘monuments’.) 

Share of EU money

Compendium updates made us re-visit another topic, the ratio of Culture Programme grants in relation to national public financing of culture.

Our calculations suggest a typical range of 0.10-0.20%. The highest instance that we found so far was about half per cent in case of Bulgaria in 2009. The latest figures have allowed us to identify the new record holder. Eighteen cultural operations of future EU member Croatia won in 2010 altogether around a million euro, mostly as co-organisers in co-operation projects. That corresponds to about 0.75% of national public sources in that year.

Croatian authorities, similarly to European practice, give little financial support to publishing, thus the more than €140 thousand that four presses won as translation grants equalled about 3.5% of national subsidies. Much more, at least half a million went to five heritage institutions, adding about 0.8% to what budgets could spend on heritage in Croatia. 

Volunteering ebb

The latest Eurobarometer report on active aging asked people (not just the elderly) among others about participation in cultural groups. The EU average is 5% of citizens. Five years earlier it was 7% - a significant drop. The ratio fell in twenty countries, sometimes (in Belgium, Italy and the Czech Republic) to a catastrophic degree. In Portugal it fell to zero. Swedes were the only ones to report growth.  



The fallback is sharper than the general fall in the level of volunteering. From 65% in 2006 the European average share of those who did not do any unpaid service grew to 73% in 2011 – in the European year of volunteering, sad irony.  

Is it because of the economic crisis, or a symptom of a much broader and deeper malaise in Europe?

3263 contacts

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