General Report in Linz, 2003


Creative Europe
Challenges of Enlargement

Conference of Ministers of Art and Culture

Linz, Upper-Austria, 21 – 23  November, 2003.

General Report by Péter Inkei

The Budapest Observatory

This year’s conference has been prepared at the high level that one got accustomed to on previous occasions. Among others, delegates received a paper on Thematic Background. That document highlighted three focus points.
  1. We are witnessing a „process of transformation from national cultural policies towards a networking apporach”;
  2. There is general agreement about the main European agenda being the preservation of diversity;
  3. „Finding a balanced middle course… remains one of the central challenges of cultural policy”.

The deliberations of the three days have indeed been centred on these points.  They were reinforced already on the opening plenary session, when the conference was addressed at the highest level, by the Mayor of the host city, the Governor of the host province, the Foreign Minister and the State Secretary for the Arts and Culture of the host country, as well as by an extraordinary personality, the publicist, thinker and former President of Estonia, Lennart Meri. 

  1. We were told that networking and trust are key-words of the international cultural policy of Austria.
    Examples from Upper Austria provided evidence to this statement on the practical level: co-operating with neighbouring Czech and Bavarian cultural operators being an important constituent of the cultural policy of the province.
    Later on, all programmes of the conference, offered as additions to formal discussions, provided opportunities for network building.
  2. Starting with the opening session, and reiterated all along the sessions, speakers established that it was a major obligation of the European Union to “maintain the cultural mosaic” in Europe.
  3. The call for a balanced middle course found its reflection in expressions like the importance of “an equilibrium” (Mr. Meri), “the right measure” (the Governor), between local, national, international and global, between small and big nations, between the many colours of diversity, between elitist and popular culture, and so on. “By the intent of people.”

The culture ministers from countries in East and Central Europe were the guests of one of the richest provinces of one of the richest countries in Europe. No resources were spared, whether financial or human. The personal commitment of the State Secretary, and his colleagues, have been greatly appreciated. All this is in line with what the Foreign Minister declared by saying that the strong should support the weak, the rich must help the poor, which is one of the guidelines of Austrian foreign policy. The authenticity of this open attitude was exemplified, among others, by the cultural programme of the conference. The list of composers whose works were performed ranges from the 17th to the 21st century, contains musical giants that had some kind of local attachment, and artists from all corners from the rest of Europe, with a clear bias for the East: The same applies to the rich arts collection of the Lentos Museum.

We were advised at the opening meeting to observe what is the use of – in that instance – insisting on European culture. The advice has been taken and extended during the meeting.

“Geography cannot be changed” – we heard the quote from Bismarck, and we learned how Austria has been conscious of the uses of exploiting her geographical position.

We also learned that the European Union is a strange species, no republic, no kingdom, no country, no federation (J. Monod); and yet Europeans have been able to turn all this to their benefit. 

Globalisation, of course, has often been mentioned during the discussions. Right at the beginning it was pointed out that through globalisation the local colours can be get world-wide visibility. Another way of seeing the uses of globalisation is its creating the necessary conditions for building and exploiting networks.

And, first and foremost, with regard to the main theme of the conference, we have been busy seeking the all possible uses and benefit of the enlargement of the Union.

To what end? In order that our continent should be more than a strange peninsula of Eurasia, “like a trimmed tail of a horse”: instead, help Europe to re-gain its privileged position once it used to enjoy, and it should become the par excellence cultural pole in this new multi-polar globe.

By the intent of its peoples.