Memo May 2015


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in May 2015

This memo goes to 4124 addresses.

Session 3388

EU ministers in charge of culture held their first meeting (of the annual two) on 18-19 May, the 3388th session of the EU Council. Participants discussed the document (“communication”) submitted by the Commission about the Digital Single Market. The 20-page paper lists sixteen issues (grouped into three pillars), the majority of which treat technical and economic aspects of our digital world. The two main objectives are to better serve European users and creators on the one hand, and, on the other, to increase the competitiveness of the continent with “other global players, such as the United States, China and South Korea who have already a digital strategy for quite some time now”.

Of the sixteen issues two have the most to do with culture: 2.4. Better access to digital content – a modern, more European copyright framework, and 3.2. A media framework for the 21st century. This latter relates to the media directive that dates from 2010 and the Commission plans to update it in 2016. The culture ministers expressed a number of remarks (p.11) on the two items.

The list of participants tells you the level of attention that your country pays to these matters.

EU cultural governance

Cultural governance was also on the agenda at the 3388th. This is an opportunity for us to wonder about the exact meaning of this frequently used phrase. Before, however, you put together your own words here are the relevant conclusions of the Council of the EU from 2012. Two basic components were identified:

  1.     Policies should be based on evidence. Facts, that is. Reliable statistics are a must.
  2.     Culture is no stand-alone matter. It should be observed and planned in its broader contexts. (holistic approach and    “integrated strategies”).

The 2012 document invited the Council to “take stock” in 2015. The revision produced five paragraphs, intelligent and harmless wishes about five issues: cultural statistics, research on culture, mainstreaming of culture, private-public partnerships, and participatory governance. Two brief extracts for illustration: 

“Member States could keep raising awareness among politicians that culture and creativity is a key issue for the economy and social policy…” “Member States could establish or continue to carry on structured dialogue with civil society.” (“Could” is not used in the sense of “managed to” but rather as “should maybe”.)

The review was enhanced by the Cultural Affairs Committee and session 3388 took note of it (p.13). Ministers could not care less.

BO desk research failed to learn about the composition, mandate etc. of the Cultural Affairs Committee (called alternatively Committee on Cultural Affairs) of the Council.   

Cross-over is beautiful

To prove that integrated strategies are close to their heart, the issue was proclaimed now in new wording: the 3388th meeting silently approved “conclusions on cultural and creative cross-overs to stimulate innovation, economic sustainability and social inclusion.”

Preparing such a document takes a lot of wrangling before the EU Council adopts it. Now – kind of post-coital tristesse. Like the one above, this text will also be duly revisited after three years.

Pilot cities

Culture Action Europe turns towards cities. They are launching a three-year programme in which participating cities receive mentoring, analysis and evaluation of their context and more, with the aim of strengthening the connection between culture and local sustainable development. The programme is done in conjunction with Agenda 21 for Culture – United Cities and Local Governments. Cities can apply before 19 June.

This was announced on the new website that has been on the air since March. The designers took pains to record past activities and to guide visitors to the information and knowledge that has been accumulated during the lifetime of the organisation.

Creative bicycle

Having discussed various features of the first two years of the cultural legs of the Creative Europe programme of the European Commission (translation grants and per country subsidies), BO renews the habit of analysing connections between countries in the frame of EU culture cooperation project grants.

The two wheels tell about the bonds that were created by and with Slovenian cultural organisations in the cultural cooperation projects in 2014 and 2015. On the left: 38 links established by Slovenian project leaders – Croats are in greatest favour, followed by Poles. On the right: 29 instances when foreign winners involved Slovenes into their application – most invitations came from Italy before France.


You can see the visualised scores of a few more countries by clicking here. The data are compared to those extracted from the first five years of the preceding Culture Programme and analysed by BO in 2011.

The annexed picture below shows the bonds with which cultural organisations in the eastern countries are linked to their western colleagues (“east” and “west” in the conventional political sense).  




Cooperating partners chosen by applicant organisations in 2014 and 2015, including platforms.

E = post-communist countries. Thickest line: Italian winners choosing Romanian partners 10 times.