Memo August 2017


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

What does autumn bring to Europe?

The ties that bind

When it is about European cohesion, culture matters most.


Never before were people so generous to culture, when interviewed by Eurobarometer. This spring, as they were asked to sort issues that are able to create a feeling of community among EU citizens, Europeans put culture clearly on top: 31% of respondents mentioned culture as one of the three most decisive issues.

The winning ticket would be culture – history – values, the three things that most people would identify as the ties that best bind the Union. Ten years ago it was economy – culture – history. In people’s minds the EU has shifted from a community of economic interests towards a value community.

The EU that scares

Here is a riddle, from the same standard Eurobarometer quiz taken in spring. Why is it that citizens in consolidated, affluent and large societies are worried much more about their cultural identity than people in poorer, small and periphery countries? Aren’t the cultures of these latter more at risk and vulnerable?


Browsing for heritage

The European Commission has come out with an update of a remarkable publication that scanned the entire jungle of EU legislation, institutions and operations in search for items that are relevant to cultural heritage. Well proven authorities in things EU will also discover lots of new connections to heritage.

Websites that serve

In June BO reviewed the English pages of a number of culture ministry websites. With the primary target clientele in mind, we have appraised the native language originals of four culture ministry portals. We went beyond the core offer of news, speeches and biographies of top administrators and looked for exemplary traits or major deficits.  



In addition to standard content, here are some of the unique or remarkable features on the website of the Serbian cultural ministry offers:

  • A series of public debates is announced on a 125-page draft strategy on culture up to 2017;
  • Every member of the staff is accessible (see for instance the department for heritage);
  • Detailed, uniform information is available on 171 cultural institutions of the country;
  • There is an updated list of 31 representative professional associations;
  • The lists of approved grants go back till 2013 (see books procured for libraries in 2017);
  • The Creative Europe logo guides you to the desk from the homepage;  
  • Two interesting projects are highlighted: on the footsteps of the writer Ivo Andrić and an industrial heritage site;

Poorer than elsewhere:

  • The latest available budget is on 2012;
  • Regulation and list of the 120 institutions of national importance is outdated;
  • One sees no mention about the creative industries.


Besides the nicely illustrated news items, the Czech ministry’s website excels in a number of ways:

  • The state cultural policy document for 2015-2020 is accompanied with its implementation plan;
  • The collection of legislation pieces is kept nice and accessible;
  • Announcements about a great variety of subsidies in 2018 (even 2019-2020) are out with carefully elaborated criteria;
  • Creative Czechia is prominent, the creative industries folder displays no-nonsense pages (including a brilliant advocacy video);   
  • The transparency folder – Open Culture – offers data in mind-boggling detail (here is how you can monitor the Czech Philharmonic).

Poorer than elsewhere:

  • There is no organigram, and no access to staff (besides biographies of senior officers).


Things to praise:

  • All ministers since 1961 are honoured, a symbol of a consolidated society;   
  • Another western (Nordic) democracy mark is that the boards of cultural institutions are displayed with members’ fees;
  • Access to the collection of laws, to statistics and opportunities of financial support is user friendly;
  • There is a long list of announced vacancies;
  • A number of topics receive more eminent treatment than elsewhere, like sports, people with disabilities, copyright, and socio-culture that Danes also find hard to name (uddannelse, folkeoplysning og folkehøjskoler).


In Hungary there is a joint portal for the entire government. In principle, the same structure and clean design facilitates orientation for the citizen. In reality, however, usage is rather cumbersome, few things are at one click. In any case, the culture pages are not really meant for everyday users. Items that are standard elsewhere are missing: strategy papers, statistics, budgets, link to institutions etc. All in all, BO found no feature that would put the Hungarian portal above its peers, sorry.