Memo June 2016


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in June 2016

The European dream has been (temporarily?) suspended.

First aid

Slovaks will help fix it.

In the culture sector, the Slovak Presidency will focus on the mid-term review of the Work Plan for Culture 2015-2018. Globally engaged Europe is one of the four overall presidency priorities, which may be beneficial for the brand new strategy for international cultural relations. 

There is also an alternative presidency site.

The work goes on*

Still before B-day, culture ministers of the European Union had a first exchange of views on updating the Audiovisual Media Services Directive that regulates the circulation of audiovisual works. This is an important area of the Digital Single Market, to which Culture Action Europe has prepared a guide.

Still in the digital realm, ministers adopted a paper on Europeana, which stores over 50 million items (a year ago BO noted the 40 million notch). Dilemmas and proposals are listed at length and an independent evaluation is called for.

Of great importance is the launch of the third leg of the Creative Europe programme, a novelty in the 2014-2020 financial period. The new financial instrument, a kind of preferential loan scheme called guarantee facility will spend €121 million on small and medium enterprises in the cultural and creative sectors.

European dream by default

Overshadowed by the EU, at the Council of Europe business is as usual. Its governing body for culture (and heritage, as is sorted there) discussed a number of remarkable issues in June:

  • Related to the previous topic, highly digitised Estonia is fully qualified to host the 3rd Council of Europe platform exchange on culture and digitisation in September;
  • The exciting attempt at identifying and applying cultural indicators has reached a decisive stage. You can dive into the details of the project through a 35-page report, a 78-page “guidebook”or read about an interactive online tool on 9 pages;
  • The Council of Europe Art Exhibitions are to be revised along an innovative concept. (BO would add this project to the list at the end of the 7-page progress report);
  • A 47 page complex and articulated proposal was composed on a European heritage strategy “for the 21st century”. With all appreciation, BO misses the sensitivity that heritage implies in lands where former inhabitants were displaced or liquidated (in recommendations S3 and S4 and in the Faro convention follow-up).

Culture and urban development

After Lodzthe 12th study visit in the same series took BO to a really emerging cityone of next year’s European capitals of culture. In the meanwhile Gamle Byone of the main cultural features in Aarhus received a prize, the 21st edition of the Micheletti award: the judges issued a detailed report(Only once did this award come to east-central Europe, as early as in 1997, to the Slovenian town of Idrija.)

BO reported about the call for the UCLG – Mexico City – Culture 21 award. The winners have been announced, including a city from our region: an urban regeneration project in the outskirts of Kaunas. 

What have the British brought to the EU?

Browsing for answers in our memos:

  • The catalogue of city case studies and the records of the study visits tell about a higher than average UK engagement in this European project;
  • The European concept of the city of culture” has probably had the greatest impact in the UK;
  • Incontestable champions of culture in foreign trade in Europe and in the world;
  • A dominant power in cultural foreign relations;
  • Towering majority of UK based projects in EU granted social and human science research;
  • Models of transparency in handling EU affairs;
  • Gatekeepers to global markets for literatures in lesser spoken languages;
  • British operations selected cooperating partners from the broadest spread of countries in their Creative Europe projects;

  • Most importantly for BO, friends and colleagues from the UK have been the most substantial contributors to the Cultural Climate Barometer.

And so on. (Notwithstanding their imperial past.)

Eurobarometer has warned

In most of the graphs that BO has constructed or borrowed over the years the UK is usually near the middle, partly due to its sheer weight which often largely determines the EU average. One of the rare cases of the UK figure sitting at the end of the scale has repeatedly been the anxiety about losing one’s cultural identity, a recurrent question at the standard Eurobarometer quiz.

One would expect citizens in the vulnerable new member states to be most concerned about their identity in the process of integration, and vice versa, established democracies to exert self-assurance in this regard. The result of the 2008 spring poll showed, to BO’s utmost astonishment, roughly the opposite, displaying the British as the most worried about their cultural integrity. 

The 2008 score (Graph Nr.8 here) is copied on the diagram below, matched against the latest results. (The question goes like What does the European Union mean to you personally? „Loss of our cultural identity” was nevertheless chosen among the first three items in no country, freedom to travel, study and work being usually on top.)

The British remained among the most fretful about their identity, although have collected a bit of self-confidence together with five other nations. (Especially the Croats, having considerably settled down from the post-civil-war state of mind in 2008.) Anxiety grew in the remaining 22 countries, reaching pathological level in Austria.

Next EU member

The Federal Kingdom of Scotland and Northern Ireland?