Cultural Policies in Europe
A Compendium of Basic Facts and Trends
Meeting of the Compendium Authors
Strasbourg, 17-18 January 2002
The Head of the Cultural Policy and Action Department, Ms Vera Boltho, opened the meeting and welcomed the participants, in particular Ms Pirkko Rainesalo, Chair of the Culture Committee, Mr Giorgio Ruffolo, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport of the European Parliament, and Mr Antonio V. Zapatero, Culture Unit, DG 10 of the European Commission. She proposed Ms Rainesalo for the Chair.
Ms Pirkko Rainesalo took the Chair and thanked the participants for their longstanding engagement for the Compendium, which had started many years ago as a data collection and had fast developed into a most efficient database and network of partners. The Culture Committee considered the Compendium as its flagship programme with a unique development potential as an instrument to monitor cultural policies in all member States of the Council of Europe.
The European Union Cultural Observatory Project
Mr Giorgio Ruffolo, referring to article 151 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, which stressed co-operation in the cultural field, welcomed the opportunity to meet representatives actively working on a most important project in the Council of Europe framework. The European Parliament had confirmed the role of culture in furthering European unity through its Report (A5-0281/2001) and subsequent Resolution (2000/2323 (INI)) on cultural co-operation in the European Union, both adopted in 2001. (See pp. 39-40 in this issue.) In opening new horizons for cultural activities going beyond the 15 EU member States, the groundwork done by the Council of Europe was well recognised and close contacts for common action had been established. The convergence of values in national, regional and local cultures, which might be called 'unity of diversities', should find its expression in practical consequences. Thus, the European Parliament had suggested an action plan and the setting up of a European observatory on cultural co-operation aiming at enhanced information exchange, co-ordination, identification and promotion of best practices regarding the cultural policies of member States. The proposal found a favourable echo in numerous circles, and the European Commission was now invited to act accordingly. The door to a wider co-operation was open.
Mr Antonio V. Zapatero confirmed the impact of the 'Ruffolo Report' as a change from managing culture to developing culture through co-operation. In this light all cultural programmes of the EU would be evaluated. The Compendium, which might be considered a revolution in the field, could possibly pave the way towards practical co-operation between the two organisations. A feasibility study would be launched concerning the creation of the European observatory, followed by a call for tender.
Compendium and Other Presentations
Ms Danielle Cliche presented the Compendium as one of the largest online information systems on cultural policies in the world. Its system of partnership involving public bodies, independent researchers and cultural policy specialists, was a 'living observatory' for cultural policies, an interactive, pan-European information resource, pooling policy trends and facts.The web version counted about 15,000 users worldwide last year. Together with Mr Joerg Torkler from Medianale, she also presented the newly designed web-based version of the Compendium, available at http://www.culturalpolicies.net.
Mr Greg Baeker, Council of Europe consultant, introduced his findings on the present Compendium situation and presented his proposals as to the future development of the project.
Mr Daniel Thérond presented the HEREIN (Heritage Information Network) project to be viewed on http://www.european-heritage.net.
The main points emerging from the discussion were:
- Compendium quality: the Compendium was a high quality product, ERICarts and the Council of Europe were to be complimented for its realisation, web-design and management; the authors' guide for compiling contributions proved highly useful;
- Cost-benefit relationship: compared to similar initiatives, the Compendium had an excellent cost-benefit relationship, which was primarily due to its networking structure and the immense amount of voluntary work that went into it. However, if the high standard and quality of the Compendium was to be maintained, then additional resources needed to be found to transfer the relationship from one based on networking alone to more professional working conditions;
- Compendium use: the structured approach, based on a common grid, led to a standardisation in presenting national cultural data, thus facilitating comparative reading and allowing for a learning process that should lead to the improvement of national policies;
- Enlargement: the Compendium should eventually cover all 48 States signatories to the European Cultural Convention;
- Comparability and statistics: in spite of standardised headings, national entries reflected the diversity of approaches taken by national governments in the development of their particular cultural policy models. Reliability of statistics was an important topic, which should be given further attention. Co-operation may be sought with the existing European Union 'Eurostat' group. Its forthcoming meeting in Luxembourg was an opportunity for discussion. Several authors offered participation in the development of the Compendium project and pooling their work on indicators and instruments for the benefit of the project;
- New subjects: in line with Council of Europe priorities and activity programmes, the Compendium should present more extensively items like cultural diversity. The results of transversal studies should be included with special emphasis on community aspects. The grid should consider better reflecting regional structures and traditions with specific attention to federal systems and policies. Subjects such as the emergence of cultural industries and the impact of new information technologies; international co-operation (already included under 4.2.2) should have a more prominent place within the grid, as well as cultural heritage issues;
- Text and/or web versions: although the main emphasis was to be laid on the web version and its development, in particular on links to be inserted, a printed version was still considered necessary; the Council of Europe/European Union HEREIN (Heritage Information Network) project was very useful as it could cover the heritage aspects of cultural policies; links to the HEREIN web site from the relevant section/profile in the web-based Compendium were at present created for national entries already available in both systems, a harmonisation of approaches and data was desirable; the web version offered the opportunity to give access to additional language versions of national contributions, which existed already in some cases;
- Status of authors: the Compendium author should be a qualified researcher outside the relevant civil service, but with close links to it, e.g., a member of a national or international cultural policy observatory. He/she should present a factual and critical approach to cultural policy; his/her status should be enhanced and the Steering Committee for Culture was invited to formulate an opinion on this matter. It was suggested that a short CV be included in the Compendium;
- Copyright: any user, including authors, should quote the Compendium reference correctly as spelled out in the web-version of the Compendium, since individual texts were part of a comprehensive exercise.
The visibility of the Compendium was yet to be enhanced (flyer, language versions), the need for more consistent and stable financing fully recognised; the Council of Europe and its Steering Committee for Culture were urged to find additional resources and ensure long term political and material support for the project.
A good balance between the ideal of comparability and the necessary individuality of country profiles was to be ensured. The grid, as a flexible instrument, was to be enlarged and adapted to changing priorities but not on an annual basis; however, the rhythm of annual updates before the summer break was confirmed, yet allowing for immediate changes in obvious cases; it should be extended towards a regular monitoring of cultural policy and practice in member States; the need for more resources and support towards continuous and high-quality updating was strongly underlined and the vision of a permanent 'observatory' further developed.
Participants confirmed their wish to co-operate within the Compendium context also in the future; an annual meeting was desirable in order to guarantee the continued quality and harmonisation of the Compendium project.
With a view to the possible formal creation of a cultural observatory by the European Commission, the participants insisted on maximum exploitation/synergies of already existing institutes with a European vocation rather than the creation of yet another structure, so as to avoid duplication of work and waste of resources.
The Chair thanked the participants for their excellent work and enthusiasm for this unique project, and in particular the ERICarts team, and invited those present to a group photo to mark this first meeting of the Compendium authors.