Comprehensive Summary


Comprehensive summary of the Bigger... Better... Beautiful? conference (Budapest, 14-17 February, 2002), based on the oral presentations of the rapporteurs (see bottom of page) on the final plenary session of the conference. 

The cultural landscape in today's Europe

The first day started with the plenary trying to describe the cultural landscape in today's Europe against the background of the enlargement of the EU. The issue of trust in democratic institutions in East-Central Europe was mentioned. It was stressed, that the process of learning should not remain one-sided. Culture is the hope of Europe but it needs new institutions and networks that truly symbolise the new European cultural belonging. 

The argument was then raised that there was a misperception about the role of high culture because the real unifying force between nations is popular culture. Another misperception is the one about dominant or the most advanced European culture. The only future for Europe is to overcome old clichés and to re-think and re-asses European culture as a culture ready to recognise, tolerate and embrace all diversities that exist within. 

The role of the two major players dealing with culture in Europe was also discussed, that of the Council of Europe and the European Union in particular. The key issue for both is the relation between the preservation of the identity of the European continent vis-à-vis globalisation. It was stated that while it might not be necessary to have a European cultural policy as such, that there was a space for the promotion of new policies. But also that it makes little sense to promote any cultural cooperation if it does not embrace the totality of the European continent. 

Three working groups that followed included the discussions on the fields of arts, of media and cinema and of cultural heritage respectively. 

One of the starting points of the arts working group was that this field felt marginalised compared to cultural industries and heritage. However, the discussion in this working group focused on a vision statement, on the recommendations for the future:

  • a call for mobility, support for research and development;
  • production funding for the accession countries;
  • the end to Commission-led and conceived emblematic cultural projects;
  • need to lobby both governments and the EU representatives;
  • establishment of a fund to avoid an artistic drain after accession;
  • promotion of translations and language diversity.

The notion of diversity dominated the second workshop that dealt with media and cinema. Participants discussed issues such as:

  • the steps that should be taken in order to integrate numerous concerns for the protection of the diversity in the European Convention (to add a whole chapter to the Treaty or include new provisions into Article 151., or to open discussion on Articles 86. and 87. dealing with state aid);
  • cultural exception, unanimity close, mandate for the negotiations within the WTO;
  • common market and its implications for candidate countries;
  • the fundamental importance of cultural diversity and its link with the issue of social cohesion;
  • as well as very concrete suggestions such as introducing special supporting mechanisms for student films. 

As for the workshop on heritage, the discussion  focused on two main issues:

  • the obsession with built heritage overshadows the almost non-existent measures for the protection of intangible heritage and the strengthening of cultural identities;
  • issues of funding: especially the role of governments (public sector in general), sponsors or innovative funding schemes such as loans or funding from other sectors as well as trans-nationally financed programs. 


Culture and the reforming of European governance

The events we are facing, such as the accession process and the work of the Convent, offer opportunities for us, cultural operators to make Europe work better for culture. We gathered at this conference partially in order to identify what to use the upcoming opportunities for, and partially to find solutions as to how to utilize these opportunities for culture. This is an important mission, as the EU will not do things for us, unless we make initiatives ourselves by approaching or by creating the adequate channels. Our task is not to reinvent the wheel, everything is provided, we just have to be courageous and work on:

  • raising culture to the European level, and rescue it from subordination to narrow national interests;
  • refreshing the overused terminology of the European integration process;
  • refreshing the institutional structure of the EU especially with regard to civil involvement and to content;
  • and exploring culture as an element of the political criteria sufficiently, as opposed to the current state of affairs. 

Culture 2000 is one manifestation of the window of opportunity we are facing. It promotes compliance with the accession criteria via supporting projects relevant from a European perspective. This is especially important as in the cultural sphere preparation for accession is somehow neglected. 

The structural funds and the trans-national funds are another manifestation of the window of opportunity, which perhaps less evidently but can and should be utilised for culture. 

An important aspect of the different funds and the whole integration process raised in the discussions was exclusion, which is an inevitable by-product of EU integration. It has been proposed that Culture 2000 should be extended to the not yet candidate countries as well. 

Overall, it is obvious that we need the EU because the EU means power. And the EU needs us because we mean expertise. Now our task is to work on establishing the link between the EU and ourselves, and to find ways as to how to cooperate efficiently. This conference with one party out of the two almost completely absent is a very respectable enterprise but shall hopefully be the last one of such short. 


Focusing on EU regional policy: the place of culture in the Structural Funds

The question to start with was the following: 'What are the implications of structural funding for cultural sector?'. Through the intelligent application of Structural Funds, it has become possible to connect policy and planning frameworks for cultural development, industrial regeneration, social inclusion and cohesion, and quality of life. This has acted as a powerful incentive to cross-sectoral, multi-disciplinary, and cross-cutting policy and planning 'architectures' at local and regional levels.

It is necessary to discuss benefits or effects that the Structural Funds might have on culture but we should firstly consider a methodological problem: how to measure development? Not only GDP acts as an indicator of more or less successful development but a quality of life in a broader sense. Therefore, culture and media sectors must gain a more prominent place in the EU Structural Funds. One solution could be to adopt a 'cultural mainstreaming strategy'. The other consists in overcoming political opposition to an extension of the Structural Funds programme after 2006, which would also benefit Applicant Countries.

The accession process should go through all the cultural actors, not only sectorial policies but education, media, civil society as to make it more understandable for all since there is a lack of knowledge within a wider public concerning it. 

The introductory speech to the session on urban culture presented concrete examples of Helsinki City Council and their participation in Structural Funds particularly in programmes Urban 1 and Urban 2.

The subsequent discussion went around the ways to make culture more visible in urban development. Several proposals were suggested:

  • integration of culture in overall city budgets (diversification of funds);
  • establishment of programmes promoting mobility and twinnings;
  • overcoming of institutional fatigue;
  • promotion of cultural industry businesses;
  • providing of flexible education and training schemes;
  • support of emerging cross-sectoral projects and policies. 

In the working group on culture and regional development, an extensive information and examples to demonstrate the use, good practice examples and problems of Structural Funds were given. Research was called because cultural initiatives are often hidden in structurally funded projects. Still, the difficulty in collecting this information exists.

Some problems were identified:

  • lack of information available about possibilities of projects;
  • lack of follow-up and management expertise;
  • culture is low on the criteria agenda;
  • criteria for Structural Funds are often written by other sectors.

Because culture has a very low profile, the recommendation emerged to encourage the Commissioner for culture to contact the heads of states asking them to inform their regions not to forget culture. 

The introductory speech to the relevant session identified cultural tourism as a most rapidly growing type of tourism in the EU but also expressed weaknesses and fears produced around it. Some concrete examples of cultural tourism in respective countries were presented. Negative examples of the wrong image of Central and Eastern European countries were discussed as well as the issues of authenticity and intimacy to be respected while planning cultural tourism. Cultural tourism projects need careful planning in advance and should be driven from grass roots, and then linked with policies. Rural tourism has been identified as a great potential and the need of animation of plain cultural heritages spaces was stressed. Museums are not museums any more, but places for interpretation. 


Cultural cooperation and mobility in an enlarged Europe

It was noted that a vast interest in cultural co-operation has emerged at a grass roots level throughout European Union member countries and its neighbouring Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries in recent years. It was however also noted that we do not have access to nearly enough funds to serve this explosion in demand and interest for cultural exchanges and meetings. A number of recommendations emerged including:

  • We need to have stronger arguments for why money should be available and spent on cultural mobility, exchange and co-operation. Therefore we need to study the impact of mobility programmes, particularly the impact when artist's return home.
  • In order to foster creativity and innovation, we would like a ‘risk fund' and a ‘go and see'  fund - which would be used to invest in people with new ideas.
  • Special funds are also required for supporting cultural production in Central and Eastern European countries - as co-operation or joint projects can not be expected if the CEE companies are not sustainable for the duration of the project.
  • Structural funds are needed for translation if we truly wish to foster dialogue. 

The European Union was considered as an important tool for fostering mobility but not the first.  We were asked to remember that cultural networks have been operating for many years at fostering mobility. Therefore as cultural operators we should use the potential of existing cultural and artistic networks to stimulate mobility and support the aim to improve the status of the networks which are, after all, the most obvious meeting points for European cultural practitioners. 

Practical issues need to be considered if mobility and exchange are to thrive in Europe:

  • We need reforms on issues such as tax arrangements, job information, salary differences, social protection etc;
  • We need structural long-term tools for long-term collaborations;
  • We must encourage dialogue between culture and other aspects of civil society;
  • With regard to mobility of cultural goods it was agreed that we need to harmonise national and international measures such as copyright, tax and labour legislation. 

In terms of an enlarged Europe, the increased possibilities for CEE countries to participate in exchange and dialogue were mentioned but also the fear that they did not consider themselves equal enough to join in the debates and dialogue. CEE countries appear rather like friends invited to join others at the cinema but then, sleeping through the film and not being able to take part in the conversation after the film. CEE countries were therefore asked to consider that they are equal partners in the debate and dialogue for the future Europe. 

It was considered that we have to change the mindset of everyone that currently considers culture in terms of setting standards rather than in terms of binding principles such as: freedom of expression; preservation of identity; fostering creativity and right to participation. 

We must foster dialogue between culture and other aspects of civil society and build collaborations that are capable of changing decisions. 

We need to actively lobby for cultural mobility and funding to support mobility. The clearest message to emerge was that we should take these recommendations and begin to influence our ministers and EU representatives at home. 


Rapporteurs: Nina Obuljen, Culturelink, Zagreb; Andrea Csanádi, Open Society Institute, Budapest; Daniela Jelinčić, Culturelink, Zagreb; Diane Dodd, Circle, Barcelona.