Memo February 2012


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

Ten years ago there was a memorable conference here.

Bigger, better, beautiful?

Participants from member and accession states at the time (from west and east) in a balanced composition came together to a carefully designed meeting. Filled with expectations, and also a bit of anxiety, they were preparing for the large wave of eastern enlargement that took place two years later.

Some of the issues and arguments in the conference report could be said today, while many things reflect an age of innocence. Mobility was one of the most frequently used words, and indeed it dominated later action in the EU. Dragan, however, was right to warn that “it would be difficult to get the EU to give up their emblematic projects”. The shift from the cultural to the creative industries was touched upon but without reference to the then young and hopeful Lisbon Strategy.

Creative Europe

Deliberations about the next seven-year cultural action programme of the European Commission are rolling on. The Culture Action Europe statement underscores the need for an improved recognition of the social dimension of culture and the importance of risk taking and experimentation in the programme. The EU Committee of the Regions also expressed opinion, similarly highlighting social connections:

“at a time of financial and economic crisis, culture can play a role in creatively meeting social policy objectives by fostering innovation as a way to achieve social outcomes… Culture, as well as cultural media and the audiovisual sector can trigger behavioural changes and have the power to create new social relationships to motivate people to use their abilities to be creative.”

The European Creative Industries Alliance was launched in Milan. However, imbalance and ambiguity still prevails. The Alliance hardly mentions culture, while cultural documents talk too much about creative industries, without convincingly delineating the two.

Ilona, szia!

The first appearance of Ilona Kish in our memos was in January 2003. She chose now to exploit her energy and inspiration somewhere else.

Emerging China

The latest Pritzker prize for architecture went to Wang Shu, born, living and working in China. (Pei, an earlier winner, was born in China but has lived in the USA from the age of 18.)

The EU is conscious of the importance of this rising nation and has dedicated a year to the intercultural dialogue with China. This initiative is deemed to bear more precious fruit than what was at sight at a previous such attempt.    

Travelling songs

The European Music Office (EMO ) published a study on the spread and diffusion of pop music in Europe, based on data from six selected countries. Statistics of songs played on radio stations and downloaded from the Internet show great correlation within countries so we have picked a few data on downloads only.

Swedes amaze us. Almost half of downloaded pieces (in fact 44.6%) are made in Sweden, although in majority with English lyrics. Germans, on the other hand, consume very little home made music, but if so, over half of it in German.



Among the lots of other data in the study it catches the east European eye that Romania has lately been added to the main sources of European repertoire. Quite a few of their songs make it to other European markets.

Southward ho

The Anna Lindh Foundation has announced its call for supporting co-operation between organisations in Europe and the southern and eastern Mediterranean.

The latest report of the Foundation presents findings on differences and coincidences of values in the two geographical regions. Some of these may essentially impact upon cultural co-operation. For instance 88% of Moroccans think that “Truth is absolute”, against 80% of people in France who hold that “There is no absolute truth it depends on circumstances”.

The size of the gap surprises one, not the fact that truth is viewed differently on the two shores of the sea. The rich survey offers a number of findings that go against expectations (which sometimes is euphemism for ignorance or prejudice).

Data that surprised BO

Where is family solidarity stronger: in the south or in the north? Many Europeans would think this is rather a southern feature. In fact more than twice as many Europeans (32%) regard it most important than Mediterraneans (mostly Arabs) do.

With regard to respect for other cultures it is the size of the gap that astonishes us. Jumping to the last two columns: Mediterraneans think that children in Europe are raised above all to become independent and curious (and perhaps at an unwise and irritating degree).

  1. This many Europeans attach importance to family solidarity
  2. This many Mediterraneans attach importance to family solidarity
  3. Europeans think this many Mediterranean parents find family solidarity important
  4. This many Europeans attach importance to respect for other cultures
  5. This many (few) Mediterraneans attach importance to respect for other cultures
  6. This many (few) Europeans attach importance to religious beliefs
  7. This many Mediterraneans attach importance to religious beliefs
  8. This many Europeans attach importance to obedience
  9. This many Mediterraneans attach importance to obedience
  10. This many Europeans attach importance to independence
  11. Mediterraneans think this many European parents find independence important
  12. Mediterraneans think this many European parents find curiosity important