Memo May 2014


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

Among new members, only Lithuanians voted in greater number than the EU average of 43%.

Diversity and identity

The latest Eurobarometer survey asked, among others, about what the European Union meant to its citizens. We are accustomed to culture being left out of such inquiries. But not his time! Out of the fourteen issues to choose two relate to culture.

Looking deeper, we find that eastern countries value cultural diversity less than the average European does. Meaningful is the difference between the positive and negative connotations of culture. Swedes (again) are the model citizens, four times as many of them associate the EU with diversity than with a cultural threat, and Finns think similarly. Furthermore, cultural diversity comes to mind three times more often than fear of losing identity for (surprise) Hungarians and Bulgarians. On the other side are those who think EU-membership is a threat to their cultural identity: Austrians, the Irish, Cypriots, and above all Greek people. (What would a bunch of Swedes and Greeks say to one another on the subject?)

Before you think the impulse of the moment produced these answers, look at the consistency with earlier data: identity paranoia haunted the same four nations years ago. (Does culture policy take note?) EU accession seems to have done good to Croats in this respect.

Heritage enacted

Culture ministers of the EU met in Brussels and adopted a high level document on cultural heritage. The opening words of four paragraphs (out of the thirty) carry the essence:

Cultural heritage

· plays an important role in creating and enhancing social capital

· has an important economic impact

· plays a specific role in achieving the Europe 2020 strategy goals

· cuts across several public policies beyond the cultural

Recommendations to member states and the European administration are in line with these statements. Virtues of the 1200-word text compensate for the lack of reference to memory policies.

Museums awarded

Tallinn hosted the 17th annual assembly and the awards ceremony of the European Museum Forum, for the first time in our region since this institution was established in 1977. The main feature of the Forum is that they operate the European Museum of the Year Award, the 36th since its inception. Only two awards have decorated museums in east-central Europe: a Romanian in 1996 and an Estonian in 2008 (in fact, the host of this year’s award ceremony). By arithmetic coincidence, 36 museums competed for this year’s prize, including eight from our region.  

The 2014 Award went to the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul. The Baksi Museum was honoured with the Council of Europe Museum Prize (Turks again!); this latter award is selected from the nominations by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The distinction with the name of the founder of the European award goes to the most original museum in the eyes of the Judging Panel, this time to Latvia; and a Swiss museum got the Silletto Prize (bearing the name of a secretive benefactor) for exemplary community involvement.  

Winners showcased

The above is not the only museum prize. There are many more on national and international levels. Since 2003 a selection of those prize winners have been gathered in Dubrovnik, accompanied by other heritage awards. This September 24 of them will be presented. The list begins with last year’s Council of Europe Museum Prize from Liverpool. Besides Europe, award winners from New Zealand, Japan and other distant lands will display their achievements. (I like the website.)

Universities ranked, cont-d

The above mentioned ministerial meeting in Brussels took a look at U-Multirank, a project co-financed by the Commission. It assesses the performance of around 800 higher education institutions worldwide. The aim is to devise a ranking tool of universities that is better than all the existing ones, including the Thomson-Reuters rank list that we reviewed a month ago. BO has made for you a user friendly version of the latest ranking of this new device, set up with €2 million in funding from the European Union.

Comparing U-Multirank and Thomson-Reuters we find considerable concordance at the top: one finds the top 15 of the former among the top 50 of the latter. With regard to east-central Europe, differences are substantial. The three universities that the British list placed among the top 400 are missing from the EU list’s top 400, where the region is represented by Budapest and Vilnius; see their visual test scores:


And the Turks? The surprise in the British list? U-Multirank 400-best has three, two of those five that figure on the British 400-best.