Memo September 2012


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

Looking forward to an eventful European autumn.

Torn in parts

The map shows satisfaction with public administration (in the context of social climate), as measured in June. The answers are also “cultural” in the sense that responses are based on emotions as much as on hard indicators. Source – Special Eurobarometer 391 on social climate. QB2.10: How would you judge the current situation in each of the following? The way public administration runs in your country?

  • Dark blue – more than double find the performance of the administration “good” than “bad” (people are very satisfied)
  • Pale blue – there are more “good” answers than “bad” (people are fairly satisfied)
  • Pale yellow – there are more “bad” answers than “good” (people are rather dissatisfied)
  • Yellow – more than double find the performance of the administration “bad” than “good” (people are very dissatisfied; apologies to Cypriots who belong here but are missing from the map)
  • Orange – over three times more say “bad” than “good” (people are extremely frustrated)
  • Red – over thirty-two times more people say “bad” (Greece)

It is in this varied climate that culture operates in today’s Europe.

Integrated strategies

One answer to the situation is that culture seeks allies. Integrated strategies are called for to liaise with other sectors: this is a central element in the latest Communication issued by the European Commission.The initiative is important and forward looking. If it was somewhat less technocratic, with a bit stronger social component it would be even stronger.

Culture in the Structural Funds

Position of culture in the Structural Funds of the European Union has been attracting increased attention. An important analysis has been published and evaluations are available on the practices in twelve countries. They will be discussed at greater length in the next memo.   

The habitual question is how much culture is supported. The logic of the Structural Funds (if we believe in pure logic when politics and money are involved), however, implies how much culture is applied in development actions.

This is not necessarily sheer instrumentalism. Relegating culture (especially the art and the artists) to servants of growth (of the capital) – no. If the vague concept of cultural citizenship suggests, among others, that cultured citizens are better workforce, investing in culture is at the same time investing into economic competitiveness. Caring for citizens’ cultural receptivity, and improving conditions for participating in culture contribute to economic success.

Hungarian practice

One country paper contains examples when culture was used and served at the same time, having growth and jobs in mind. Relatively large amounts from the European Social Fund (ESF), coupled with the infrastructural resources of the European Regional Development Fund were used to upgrade the library and museum sectors with the specific aim to serve citizens better, and reach more groups of them. Even more commendable is the involvement of hundreds of cultural operations in the activities of schools.

BO would be the last to act as mouthpiece of any country, certainly not where we are based. The previous paragraph is a strict exception.

The projects referred to here exist in semi-legality. All cultural actions using ESF money must be concealed as education or social projects. (This is one reason why the often mentioned 6 billion euro share of culture from the Structural Funds can be considered a rough approximation but far from being an exact statistic.)

Barroso high

"We do not have to apologise for our social market economy,” President Barroso said in his momentous speech in the European Parliament about next challenges of European integration. He also added that we must develop a "European social dimension".

I missed the opportunity to warn the President of the Commission that next to the apparently smooth co-operation with DG Enterprise, and to a lesser extent with the European External Action Service culture should liaise closer with DG Employment (and social affairs).

I suggested, however, to emphasise the novelty of the new (integrated!) structure of the Creative Europe programme more than the claim for increased budget. I went on saying that next to inventing new projects, great initiatives in the field need to be screened for and enhanced. I admitted that the money used for the EU orchestras I would rather spend on other great European orchestras in need. There was eye contact all along.

This happened at the meeting with selected representatives of European culture, initiated by Bozar, Brussels. Such direct contacts are important. It is a matter of personal disposition that the prospect of “platforms where women and men from culture debate Europe” appears moderately formidable to me.

Language in focus

“An EU with one language would be a catastrophe.” This was said also in the European Parliament, on the European day of languages. Language diversity is a vital part of cultural diversity – of the diversity of cultural expression in Unesco parlance. Also in Spitz, Austria, at the European Literature Days BO touched upon ways of using the principles of quota and positive discrimination to enhance diversity. The graph is a teaser to the related paper – share of translation on the Danish book market in the early 2000s. The update of the report on translation trends in Europe will offer further ammunition before the end of the year.


Commission in motion

Echoing the focus on cultural citizenship in future action, a conference will be held on 16-17 October in Brussels on audience development. A day before, the European Capitals of Culture programme is addressed: among others, how to continue after 2019. BO greets the event with a melancholic playful file

Registration to these events is closed.