Memo June 2014


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

This newsletter went to 3790 addresses.


Paths for the future are being sought in various ways. 21st century man, among others, updates long term strategy documents. Three of these drafts have been uploaded for public wisdom.

First is the mid-term review of Europe 2020 strategy of the European Union. We have four months before the October 31 deadline to find the smartest way to empower culture in the European machinery by responding the questionnaire.

Agenda 21 for Culture (not to confuse with its elder sister Agenda 21 proper, which focuses on the environment) encapsulates roles and aims of culture in the life of cities. Its text was adopted in 2004 in Barcelona. Now, ten years later, instead of re-writing the five chapters, the original manifesto is kind of broken down into a questionnaire for municipal self-evaluation. By going through the 72 questions (some of them indeed clusters of questions) under eight headings, the municipal clerk absorbs the (updated) spirit of Agenda 21 for Culture, and the answers constitute a cultural strategy of the city. You are invited to improve the text of the toolkit.   

Global is the scope also of the sustainable development goals, which would replace the UN Millennium Development Goals that expire in 2015. Culture props up in four out of the 17 “proposed goals” in the zero draft of this strategy. E.g. goal Nr.4 on education advocates for “awareness raising on culture’s contribution to sustainable development”; goal Nr.8 on economic growth argues for local culture’s role in sustainable tourism.


Sustainability brings us to European Green Capitals. Actually it is Copenhagen. Ljubljana has just been selected for 2016, the seventh in the list and the first from east-central Europe. BO regrets that the criteria are almost exclusively technical, culture’s potential in winning citizens’ heart for sustainability remains unexploited.   

One more capital has just been selected for 2016, also from our region: Wrocław will be World Book Capital, the 16th city to bear the title, the 7th in Europe and the 2nd from the region after Ljubljana in 2010-11.

Has it ever happened that a city was World Book Capital and European Capital of Culture at the same time? This is what will happen to Wrocław in 2016.

Can Wrocław become also World Design Capital in 2016? Maybe in 2018, the year 2016 already belongs to Taipei, which will be the 5th after Torino, Seoul, Helsinki and Cape Town. Unlike the previous three, this title is independent from intergovernmental organisations and costs the winning city a fortune.   


Selections were made in June also to the World Heritage List. No item was from east-central Europe among the 26 additions, the 98 properties from our region represent now less than 10% of the total 1007 items. (Joint and overlapping projects appear in each respective country, the precise number is therefore less than 98.) Our share is the same approximate 10% on the 1598 strong waiting list as well.

Luckily, only the medieval monuments in Kosovo represent us on the list of heritage in danger, and two of the four successful restorations are in east-central Europe: Dubrovnik and Wieliczka.


Among prominent news from Ukraine you would not expect ones on the arts these days. Yet the shortlist of an award with global recognition made it to the international press – with only two Ukrainians on behalf of east-central Europe.

Furthermore, the newly elected president of the country is said to be “sweet on culture”, too.


Citizens of the European Union were asked – among others - about their views on the most important aspects of education. The teacher’s ability to motivate the children was rated the highest, followed by her/his subject knowledge; learning environments that stimulate students' creativity was third. These are European averages. Here is how people in the respective countries think about the last issue: 

With the notable exception of Poles and Estonians, the eastern EU citizens cared less than the average for creativity at school.

We tried to relate this to the famous PISA survey of the OECD. The data that BO thought to be the closest to the previous issue confirm the phenomenon: Estonians and (in this case) Czechs excel in problem solving but most of our teenagers are less creative than their western peers. 

BO went back further in time to the European Lifelong Learning Indicator ELLI. From its four dimensions “Learning to be” comes closest to this matter:

Estonians are near to the (eastern) top again, surpassed by Slovenes only.

Problem solving, creativity, life styles are valued less and perform poorer in our lands. Differently from the cognitive aspect of education where Eurobarometer found no striking east-west divide:


ELLI lived short. Designed as an annual composite index, serious about methodology, it was never repeated after the 2010 launch. The project did not survive the dissolution of its Canadian forerunner, from where the four pillars originated. BO is particularly sorry for Learning to be, since four out of its nine input data were about cultural behaviour (see p. 31 here), usually neglected in related exercises.