Memo November 2017


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

November produced an awful lot of EU-files to look at.

Leaders in Gothenburg

Their agenda prompted EU leaders to discuss culture annexed to education, on the margin of the social summit in Gothenburg on 17 November. The debate was prepared with a shortera midsize and  a longer paper, which were welcomed by the sector with certain reservation. The European Student Card is planned to be expanded “to offer access to cultural sites and activities across Europe”. Greater accent was put on the preferential loan scheme to creative industries (guarantee facility). 

Ministers in Brussels 

EU culture ministers held their usual working session in Brussels, summed up here in short and at greater length. From the 28 countries 19 ministers were present, from six not even a senior administrator attended, which is worse than in May; Austria, Germany and the UK can be excused (elections or Brexit) but not permanent absentee Hungary.  

Ministers adopted a document on promoting access to culture through digital means. Council conclusions are a particular genre. The 28 governments 1) identify common concerns, 2) make pledges for improved performance, 3) may agree on joint targets and 4) determine tasks for the Commission and define the necessary means (e.g. money). This document, too, should be read with this in mind.

1)     What are the shared concerns of the 28 culture ministers about access to culture which makes them call for continued and increased focus on audience development? Where are the main deficits – with the organisations’ offer or the stance of the population?

2)     What do ministers promise to do differently (other than what common sense dictates anyway)? In what specific cases and ways are digital means the key? Is there something they warn against?

3)     Are there target indicators?

4)     What is the Commission expected (allowed, financed etc.) to do?

The key words/sentences in the text may be the following: “compile EU-wide voluntary guidelines for collecting and managing data on digital audiences for a better and more user-oriented provision of services by cultural organisations”. Or perhaps: “take advantage of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage increase participation in the governance of cultural heritage within all social groups”.

Social and cultural

Discussing culture in the frame of a Social Summit calls attention to the links between social and cultural inequality: what is the degree and the nature of correlation between the two?

Material poverty is only one among the obstacles to access to culture. Yet a table like the one below, produced by social researchers for the EU, raises questions like the following. Where societies are much more homogeneous, and poverty is less of a threat than the average (CZ, SK), is this reflected in the cultural habits in the country? Is securing access to culture the hardest where poverty and inequality are much greater challenges (RO, ES) than elsewhere?

Eastern partnership

Also in November, an Eastern Partnership Summit was held in Brussels. One finds few clues in the documents of the meeting about the place of culture in the future, as the Culture & Creativity programme is coming to an end. “Now is the time for even more action” and “broadened outreach and targeted support in particular to grassroots civil society organisations” – reads in the press release.

This sounds promising for the newly born Eastern Partnership Cultural Observatory. Its first monthly Brief gives a short overview of cultural diplomacy in the six eastern neighbourhood countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. In it, among others, the presence of these newly independent republics in the global heritage lists of Unesco is compared:

Western partnership

The confirmation that due to Brexit no UK city can win the title of European Capital of Culture in 2023 is a shock to British candidate cities and to the involvement of the UK into European affairs in the future. BO hopes that someone – members in the European Parliament, the leaders, when they follow up culture on 14-15 December, or the country where the other ECoC will be in 2023 (Hungary) – will propose to amend the law so that not only in 2024 but also in 2023 can an “EFTA/EEA country, candidate country or potential candidate” be involved.

Compendium, populism

A new structure to operate and govern Compendium was heralded in Prague. The assembly of Compendium authors also discussed about culture and populism. “Cultural policies have a potential to increase people's sense of belonging and civic participation, thereby building bridges and addressing dangerous tendencies such as populism, nationalism and extremism” – cultural ministers ”generally agreed” (p.12) in Brussels. Does generally imply that some member countries do not fully agree?

Ministerial sites

We are glad we began this exercise, it has yielded a lot of information and lessons. This time BO took a look at the cultural ministry websites of Greece and Poland.


However, the EU-files have generated too many words. The established size limit of our memos forbids to share with you the remarks on the two portals. They have been stored for MemoDec. Take this for a teaser.

Climate report

Don’t miss the chance to express yourself on the Cultural Climate Barometer 2017.