Memo April 2014

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

Citizens of the European Union, go and vote!

Who to vote for?

Here is an ingenious device that offers you orientation among political parties that propose candidates for the elections to the European Parliament, not only in your country but in all 28 member states. You will share, however, our disappointment over the absence of culture among the issues covered. 

An august forum in April

An event of great scale was held in the Chaillot Palace in Paris, reminiscent of a dazzling one that BO attended nine years ago. This time the 1200 delegates included 15 culture ministers but only the ones from France and Ukraine were identified in the press covering. President Hollande paid a surprise visit and called for “European digital champions”: the need for a European strategy for culture in the digital age was in the focus of deliberations. 

Europe and the rest of the world

In the framework of a “preparatory action” a mighty consortium (see bottom of this page) has been working on the topic of culture in EU external relations in the past two years. Their conclusions were summarised in a discussion paper which was submitted to the participants of a conference held in Brussels. Exploratory missions to two dozen “third” (i.e. non-EU) countries had been conducted in search of the necessary evidence.

This endeavour constitutes an important step towards one more field where Europeans should act in conjunction. We know, however, that many politicians, and indeed a considerable part of the public still expect cultural diplomacy to perform in the spirit of the nation-state’s self-assertion. It will therefore take time to establish the first common House of European Culture on a “third” continent – remarked BO at the meeting. Such an agency could offer its services to country branding activities, too (especially of smaller member states): the artists engaged usually follow their own global cultural agenda anyhow. And the message is European even if the content is national.  

Busy summer in Timişoara

BO could take a brief glance at one cultural collaboration project that involves a “third” country. The occasion was the launching of a commendable initiative. The municipal leadership of the capital city of Banat commissioned a task force to elaborate a cultural strategy. The horizon is distant (2024), the deadline is near (September).

There used to be coordinated attempts at devising such city strategies, otherwise there is a deficit of sophisticated urban cultural policy plans in our region. Apparently also elsewhere.    

Crowd what?

Before 2006 the word “crowdfunding” did not exist and the search function at BO site could not find this term until yesterday. But now we are busy exploring its potential in Hungary, in the frame of a project whose four partners want to screen the Visegrad area similarly to what an excellent paper did on a European scale three years ago.

The European Commission issued a communication (in fact a high level official statement), based on a public consultation about crowdfunding in Europe. This has revealed the predominance of non-financial reward: platforms that collect money for noble causes (like the majority of cultural initiatives) over schemes that operate with financial reward. This reward can be ownership (equity) in the supported project or share from the revenue generated by the beneficiary. Since open questions and possible risks are linked at greater measure to the latter, the communication addresses crowdfunding with financial reward at greater length. Needs and possibilities of EU regulations were considered in this connection, such as challenges of protecting intellectual property, fraud and consumer protection concerns, issues of legal uncertainty and burdensome regulatory requirements.

An expert group is being recruited to advise the European Commission in these matters: check whether you are qualified to be selected (or an acquaintance of yours).

Distance from the top

Haute cuisine and universities are bordering culture proper, thus we found it justified to check the standing of our east-central European area on two recently published rank lists. I wish we had not done so. We are absent from the top 100 best restaurants and the top 100 best universities on two dependable rank lists. Just next door in Vienna there is a champion, Nr.16 on the restaurant list (although it has slipped from #9 a year ago), and a unit in Moscow at Nr.71. On the university list Berlin is the nearest location (#86 and 94).

The list of universities goes on: in the 300-400 batch we find Warsaw, Prague and Tartu from east-central Europe. That makes three in top 400.

Turkey has five: one, two, three, four, five.

BO jubilee

Here is a kind memento about time passing by.