Memo February 2014


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in February 2014

The March memo will be cheerful, full of good news and optimism. We shall overcome!

Last bastion falls

Among the nine kinds of cultural activities about which the Eurobarometer poll interviewed citizens there was one only where a slight increase occurred between 2007-2012: people went to cinema a bit more often. (TV, radio refers to watching or listening to cultural programmes in the media, opera includes ballet as well.)

The latest report of the European Audiovisual Observatory has taken our joy. From 2012 to 2013 the number of admissions in EU cinemas (roughly the same group as in the chart above) fell by 4%. Even if some of these figures are preliminary estimates, they add to our gloom.

The greatest flops occurred in crisis states Slovenia, Spain and Cyprus (15-25% minus). Of these Spaniards complained about expenses in the greatest number to Eurobarometer (42%, question QB2.2). The three countries, whose inhabitants did go to cinema 10-17% more often in 2013 than in 2012 are the ones that showed the most miserable record when BO last looked into cinema figures: Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria.  

Own food in cinema

Broad is the scale according to the share of home made films in the cinemas between countries in Europe. Turkey is a different world with 58%. The high rates in France and Italy are a long tradition and the success of Danish cinematography has been with us for a while, too. Striking is the difference between 24% in the Czech Republic against 3.2 – 1.5 – 0.6% in Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria respectively.

The 16.5% for Lithuania is a mystery to us.


Bosnian blues

IbrahimSenadin and Amila provided an intensive introductory course to the participants of the annual assembly of EFA (European Festivals Association) on the cultural realities of Sarajevo less than two decades after the hideous 40-month siege and blockade of the city. A place governed through constructs devised somewhere far away, imposed upon its citizens who learned the term multiculturalism when they were about to lose it while culture ministries were busiest at creating separate imagined identities; where the winners of the market economy idolise politicians like Berlusconi and whose main attraction is the shopping mall while the great mass consists of unemployed, impoverished indignados with a thin layer of the natural breeding ground of culture, a precarious middle class in between. Bosnia is not yet what it deserves to be.  

A silent Catalan departs

Two new papers have been disclosed on the website of EENC, the European Expert Network on Culture (of which BO is a member). Based on the views of a handful of specialists, a snapshot is offered on current challenges to cultural heritage in Europe and on the priorities that the European community should follow in the next few years.

The other one is a precious review of 87 recent publications on the value of cultural heritage. The high number suggests a broad range both with regard to the concept of value and to the scope of heritage.

Jordi Baltà was the coordinator of the project until he bid farewell by the end of March.

S.F. Mills

Mills of the EU structural funds are grinding slow. The fundamental regulation was concluded in December: a lengthy act on the “common provisions” and separate pieces for the ERDF (European Regional Development) and the ESF (European Social Fund). BO has been critical of the absence of culture from ESF targets. This last document finally contains the following: “The ESF should also contribute to cultural and creative skills. Socio-cultural, creative and cultural sectors are important in indirectly addressing the aims of the ESF; their potential should therefore be better integrated into ESF projects and programming.”

Governments of member states are submitting their draft seven-year plans (called “partnership agreements”) to Brussels and are working on the various chapters (called “operational programmes”). Keep an eye on them. 

Good speech

Commissioner Vassilliou was explaining to Americans about the complex issues of the place of culture in the policies of the European Union at Harvard University. It is probably her best speech, frankly.

Veliko Tarnovo

BO has nourished interest in institutions of local community culture. Likeminded people will come together in September in Bulgaria.