Memo November 2015


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

Sad times.

European Culture Forum 2015

We live amidst “fears of the asylum seekers, radical Islam and terrorist attacks. Against such background, it would perhaps make more sense to look at the culture budgets not in terms of their economic impact... but rather as a security issue.”

These are Dragan’s words from 2004 (thanks, Carla). Italy’s prime minister behaves, he has promised to raise as much ad hoc additional support to culture as is spent on security, one billion euro each. More money by itself is no salvation but Matteo Renzi’s specific targets make sense. BO is eager to watch the follow-up.

Less spectacular is the reaction made by the culture ministers of the European Union at their usual come together. At the topic of intercultural dialogue in the four-year work plan for culture the unimpressive “Stock-taking meeting” was replaced with a slightly more substantial pledge. An expert group will produce a handbook of good practices within a year, an improved and expanded edition of the previous effort of this kind.

The group should pay heed to Dragan’s prickly caution about intercultural dialogue. (Don’t confuse it with inter-confessional dialogue, avoid the exchange of polite truisms, steer clear of kitschy merchandising of diversity etc.; focus on intercultural competence.)   

Culture ministers’ forum

With regard to the Meeting n°3428 of the Council of the EU we feel compelled to quote ourselves from the previous MemoNov: “the Council meeting prompts a remark why BO would hate to see the UK leave the EU. Can you tell another country where preparation to the ministers’ consultation is as transparent as in this British example?” A baroness quotes her friend that the above mentioned expert group is welcome. He comments on the other issues of the meeting as well. From this British memo you can best understand the essence of the meeting.

Culture in EU’s external relations

The ministers approved a document (“council conclusions”) on the place of culture in the external relations of the Union. It has been in the making for long and received a particular focus in the end: culture “as a vector for development cooperation”.

Here, too, a task group is established to prepare a “concrete, evidence-based, shared and long-term approach” on the issue. Despite being labelled ad hoc “the initial period 2016-2017” suggests a longer life span.

Compendium in Wrocław 

This year’s meeting of Compendium authors was indeed businesslike: a working session of the editorial team of the largest continuously upgraded comparative web-based collection on policies on culture. EricArts is in charge, jointly with the Council of Europe. Less known is the Ecures association, the founder and now partner of EricArts.

As usual, the authors’ meeting was combined with a conference, this time about the interrelationship of culture and human rights.

Furthermore, delegates had a chance to look behind the scenes of preparing for Wrocław 2016.

Coming to terms with the past

That the proud and successful Polish city of Wrocław was born seventy years ago from a total ethnic and cultural overhaul is openly unfolded in the conception of the European Capital of Culture year – up-stream in a way. We are looking forward to the opening pageantry televised and streamed on 17 January, and of course to the entire programme

A 4 December deadline

Representatives from local and regional authorities are invited to attend thematic study visits on culture in the frame of an impressive Eurocities project coordinated by KEA, this time to three cities (Birmingham, Helsinki/Espoo, Sofia) and two regions (Łódź, North Portugal). The EU funded undertaking has generated introductory case studies from seventy cities and regions.

A similar Agenda 21 initiative has arrived at ten pilot cities in Europe. The striving Catalan city of Terrassa is included in both lists.

A 6 December deadline

A few days remain to redress imbalances in the geographical composition of the responses to the Cultural Climate Barometer.

The diagram induces us to praise Britons for the second time in this memo (this time with the Irish).

Respondents with performing arts background took a strong start in the survey, with academics catching up during the month; heritage people are still lagging behind.

How do you find the climate for culture in your environment? Have your say before the link is off.