Memo December 2012


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

Enter Emerald.

Parliament strikes back

Some MEPs (members of the European Parliament) seem to have had enough of the low level criticism targeting the European institutions and responded with a pinch of populism. “Would you prefer to be EU or UK civil servant” –  cheeky, isn’t it? 

One more macro?

The third European macro-region may bring together eight countries around the Adriatic and the Ionian seas.

Born in 2009, the Baltic Sea region also consists of eight countries. The 12th of the 15 priority areas in the region’s action plan contains some cultural objectives – not too much.

There is some more in the second macro-region. The 3rd priority area of the 14-country Danube region (registered in 2011) promotes culture, tourism and people-to-people contacts. Macro-regions have limited financial resources of their own but projects connected to their priorities are doing well at other EU funds. The Flow Festival is a characteristic project and waves of the Danube region took BO to  Spitz. A recent “reflection paper” informs about achievements and dilemmas of this geo-political configuration.

Policies in motion

Several country profiles have been updated lately on the Compendium site. BO memo digest recommends the wave of civic engagement to policy reforms in Poland, especially in the frame of the Pact for Culture. More disheartening are news about arbitrary acts of the government in Macedonia. The very latest similar moves in Hungary have not yet made it to the profile update.  

Museums in focus

CORDIS stands for Community Research and Development Information Service. Its site informs about the framework programme that funds research and innovation in the European Union. There have been six earlier science programmes, this is why the current one is named Seventh Framework Programme –  FP7.

Is culture an academic topic? Keyword frequency does suggest so. In FP7 the adjective cultural occurs in 1338 items, compared to 1943 electronic, 1645 nuclear or 1409 clinical. Potato occurs in the blurbs of 30 projects and poetry in 11; but monetary in 36 while musical in 130.

The word museum appears in 179 FP7 abstracts. BO attended the closing event of one that was also labelled cultural policy. Eunamus is apparently an expanded follow-up of NAMU, an FP6 project. The main lesson of the research is summed up in eight policy implications:      

  • National museums need to be autonomous creative institutions
  • National museums need to understand and be open about their performances
  • National museums need to overcome national constraints
  • National museums need to develop and share tools for establishing bridge-building narratives
  • National museums need to review their impact on perceptions of citizenship
  • National museums need to reach new audiences
  • Regional and local museums hold great potential for international bridge building
  • National museums can act as forums for contested issues

You know what? Replace museums with theatres. It works.

All that flesh

British scientists have calculated the human biomass of countries, which is the grand total of the weight of citizens. As a major cultural challenge, our race is getting fatter much quicker than its sheer number, including in Europe. In BO spectre (east and central Europe) Hungarian men and women collected the greatest amount of weight between 1980 and 2008. Nevertheless Czech men are the heaviest, almost 70% are overweight and about 30% are super-fat. Among ladies the smallest proportion of overweight and obese was registered in Estonia; what is more, both indicators improved between 1980 and 2008! BO suspects statistical swindle elsewhere, too: Moldova is presented as the country of thinnest men and heaviest women: less than 40% overweight men live alongside nearly 60% overweight women, both occupying opposite extremes of the respective scale in the region.

Here is to check the definition of overweight and obesity, as well as your personal position.

The most envied spots on earth produce the sharpest increases: the Pacific and the Caribbean islands, as well as the Gulf States. Urban legend says that in Europe obesity spreads the fastest in the Mediterranean. False. They, especially the Greek, have different problems, see next entry.

Consumption scales

On a GDP per head scale where EU average is 100, Luxembourg is on top with 271. It is hard to conceive how to live 2.7 times better than the average. In search of more appropriate indicators the per capita AIC: actual individual consumption has been favoured lately. Eurostat has come out with the latest list. The columns show the countries’ position with regard to the average of the European Union in 2011, with the line indicating their spots two years earlier. 

It makes more sense to know that a Luxembourger consumes forty per cent more what life offers (including probably culture) than, say, an Italian sitting on the EU average. Who, on his part, can afford three times as much as a Bulgarian, although this gap was slightly closing from 2009 to 2011.