Memo October 2014


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

On 1 November the Juncker Commission took charge of EU matters with Tibor Navracsics acting for culture.

Barroso heritage

Part of the legacy of the Barroso Commission is the increasing endorsement of cultural heritage. In the Brussels jargon, conclusions and communication mark the culmination of this process. After the Greek presidency in spring, in the autumn the Italians also dedicated a conference to the issue (BO attending both).

Valuing heritage

Why the buzz? How important is heritage? This was the subject of the Rome meeting, of a recent literature review, and there is an on-going programme about it co-ordinated by Europa Nostra which held one session in Cracow.

How to value heritage (e.g. built monuments)? Besides money (euros, dollars...) what other “currency” to use: tourist nights, flickr selfies, tripadvisor comments? What is the measure of academic, historic or spiritual value? And of stakeholders’ rating? How to treat the valuation methods of real estate or insurance agencies and consultancies? What to do with uncomfortable “dissonant” heritage? How to arrive at the grand total of the value of the heritage sector?

The quest goes on, next station Leuven in February.

Heritage on the horizon

Another legacy of the outgoing Commission is the huge amount allocated to research in the next seven-year EU budget (the “multiannual financial framework” for 2014-2020). 70 billion to Horizon 2020 is a lot, just think of the 278 bn for agriculture, the 325 bn to regional development (the Structural Funds) – or the 1.3 bn of the Creative Europe programme.

Most of this money goes to hard sciences but societal challenges” also get lavish support. One of those challenges targets new brave societies in Europe, with an ambitious work plan for 2014-2015, with heavy accent on heritage.

  • By June 15 proposals arrived for the €9 million earmarked for a “social platform” that will bring together the relevant research communities with stakeholders like practitioners from the socio-cultural and artistic sectors”.
  • 94 applicants promise advanced 3D modelling for accessing and understanding European cultural assets (€14 million).
  • Application deadline for the next three items is end of May. €17.5 million on ways of giving value to European heritage.
  • The same amount on studying cultural opposition in the former communist regimes. Expected impact? Past merits may lend extra weight also to contemporary culture.
  • The same amount again on cultural heritage of war, i.e. research on memory policies. War is narrower than what BO emphasised in Rome (and Pan Jacek in Cracow) about the background of heritage in east and central Europe: repeated regime changes, displacement of populations etc.

A Portuguese gentleman will guard over spending all this money properly.

One per cent

One per cent for culture is a classic battle cry (often voiced especially in France and Poland). The drive behind is clear and laudable although the exact content is full of confusion. What is included (or left out), where? And what is the share of public expenditure that should have been spent differently (or not at all)?  

Eurostat hopes to offer a harmonised response by adapting the so called COFOG classification of public expenditure of the United Nations. Category 08.2 stands for cultural services. Here is the latest rank list of countries in this respect. (Data are missing on a few member states.)  

What you see is not budgetary allocations but facts reported afterwards; and not just from the central government but data include all money spent on culture also at lower levels: municipalities and regions. (For the path to access these data go to the very bottom of this message.)

Estonia and Latvia have been hitting the target. It is nevertheless hard to believe that Greek authorities spend proportionally over ten times less on culture than in Latvia: statisticians use the same manual when reports are prepared to Eurostat.

As to the effect of the crisis, we find five EU members where the share of culture in public spending grew, at least until 2012 (including one, where it leaped: Malta). Culture’s percentage dropped in nine cases. (Remember, central government budgets represent a smaller half, about 45% of these amounts, the other half being local expenditure.)

Capitals of culture 2019

Next to Bulgaria, we have the 2019 European capital of culture in Italy, too. It was a noble competition, to the credit of the applicant cities. (Yet BO maintains that full twelve months is too long to maintain the thrill.)


Six years after

World music performers and fans gathered in Spain, just like six years ago. Among the 56 in the showcase schedule we found four bands from our region – a modest share, just like six years ago. (You can listen to them by clinking on the name). And then we were glad to know the next edition closer to us – now it will come quite here.    

Culture policy barometer

We are grateful to those who have contributed to the quiz, and especially to those of you who helped to improve the instrument with feedback in general, and in particular with regard to the most favourite three choices where we asked for further specification:

  • “Lack of robust cultural policy vision” – selected by 57% of the respondents
  • “Marginal place of culture in education” – 50%
  • “Declining subsidies from central (government) budgets” – 42%

The report comes with the next memo. You can take a look at the set of statements in its revised form, again in the form of a post scriptum to this message (apologies for the harassment).

A last opportunity for those who missed the chance to participate a month ago, especially from underrepresented Estonia, Finland, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine. 


Annex: The road to reach Eurostat COFOG data: