Memo March 2017


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in March 2017

After sixty you redefine your goals. So does European integration.


BO is fond of COFOG. The Classification of the Functions oGovernment was designed by the United Nations as early as 1970. Eurostat applies the version developed by the OECD. Public functions are divided into ten classes, which are further broken down into subclasses. Culture is part of the 8th “recreation” class as 08.2 – cultural services.

Upon the disclosure of the 2015 data, BO designed a number of diagrams on public cultural funding on national level in the EU members. Here is one, a graph that reveals the size (smallness) of the eastern countries as well as the dynamic of changes:

Incredible as it is, in 2004 the eleven post-communist countries that are now in the EU, taken together, spent less on culture than Italy alone. Eleven years later, however, their cumulated total public cultural expenditure came close to 7400 million euro, while Italy could add some 5.5% more only, just to remain below 6000 million.

Six curves

Here comes BO’s favourite diagram, condensing a variety of information. The drawing presents the dynamic of central (national) and local (municipal or regional) public cultural budgets related to total public expenditure since 2004.

How does the diagram read? The continuous lines show that till 2008 public spending in the EU (expressed in euro) grew at a similar space in the centre as locally. After the financial collapse in 2008, at EU aggregation, the central budgets followed a more hectic path, while local development slowed down. Both seem to have consolidated after 2013.

The real revelation is the difference between central and local cultural finances. Before 2008, due to increased investing in local culture, total cultural expenditure grew at a greater pace than public funding in general. The cultural allocations of central governments, however, lagged behind public expenses in general, and local cultural budgets in particular. After 2008 things turned really sour. While on the local level culture managed to keep the general pace, most central governments administered cruel cuts. Culture’s share fell sharply by hitting the 2004 baseline in 2013. Despite the latest corrections, it is far from the position that cultural services held in the government budgets a decade ago. (Much more here.)

Support funds

The public consultation on Creative Europe is rolling on for two more weeks but Culture Action Europe has already disclosed its contribution to the thinking. The twenty-five recommendations testify about the concern that the members of that organisation feel about the future of the programme.

BO’s main concern has affected the aims of the translation programme, as well as the level of transparency, in the mirror of Unesco’s fund for cultural diversity – which is expecting applications before 14 April.


We have got the Tree of 2017. We illustrate the news with the silver medallist (from Walesto promote the project among our western readers as it has so far been too much dominated by the east.

Are trees culture, too? At least as much as beach volleyball or computer games are.

One winner

Here is a call for one winner that will receive an award with six generous components. Deadline – 28 April.

Key competences

After eleven years, the European Commission has decided to review the eight key competences that guide the process of the education of young people (official name: eight key competences of lifelong learning). Their adoption was a milestone and the process or their review is equally important. In a way, it is an exercise of turning the sometimes hazy concept of shared European values into something concrete and operational. BO hopes that the skills now called transversal (critical thinking, creativity, initiative or problem solving) shall become better integrated into the competences.

Scenario Nr.6

President Juncker has prepared five future trajectories in Europe which appear to sufficiently cover the scope of options. Yet a Slovene came forward with a sixth one that BO is inclined to support: the scenario of passionate Europeanism. Why leave radicalism to those working against European integration? And why not keep a pinch of populism to ourselves?