European Capitals of Culture 2020+

The new criteria and procedures for the ECOC from 2020 have now been published. See my later blog entry   http://wp.me/p20NFR-8S

There is also a new guidance note for cities considering or preparing to bid   http://ec.europa.eu/culture/tools/actions/documents/ecoc-candidates-guide_en.pdf

Original blog entry continues……..

The European Commission proposes to continue the European Capitals of Culture programme beyond 2020.  The current programme ends in 2019, with cities, as yet unselected, in Italy and Bulgaria.

The EC’s proposals take the programme to 2033:  the most long term assertion of the EU’s existence in recent months given its failure to address the crisis of the eurocrisis.

As now there will be two capitals a year, from different countries set out in a long term rota.  I would hazard a guess that some of the larger countries will adopt the UK’s national city of culture  on a four year cycle (Derry in 2013)  as they wait for their turn at the European level.

A new change is the return of applicants from candidate and potential candidate countries. (I already know bids are being prepared in cities in Serbia and Turkey for 2020).  However these only come into the programme every third year on the current proposals.

The Commission has issued two detailed papers on their proposals. One includes a very intensive review of recent trends by ECOCs and the proposed strategic direction for future ECOCs.

No doubt there will be strong lobbying by governments, cities and the cultural sector!  The Commissions proposals need to be approved by the Council (presumably via the meetings of culture ministers with input from others no doubt) and the European Parliament (via the Culture Committee and others).  Watch out for your turn to comment at both national and European level.

In the meantime here is the proposed list of countries:

2020: Croatia and Ireland (and candidate)

2021:  Romania and Greece

2022:  Lithuania and Luxembourg

2023: Hungary and UK (and candidate)

2024: Estonia and Austria

2025: Slovenia and Germany

2026:  Slovakia and Finland (and candidate)

2027:  Latvia and Portugal

2028: Czech Republic and France

2029: Poland and Sweden (and candidate)

2030; Cyprus and Belgium

2031:  Malta and Spain

2032: Bulgaria and Denmark (and candidate)

2033: Netherlands and Italy

More Europe? yes, but not this one.

Four recent quotes:

Angela Merkel:  “We need  more Europe, a budget union, and we need a political union first and  foremost, we must, step by step, cede responsibilities to  Europe.”

David Cameron:  “If you think you can just establish a European Parliament and a  flag and everyone will be loyal to it, that’s nonsense.”

Esko Aho (former Finnish Prime Minister) :  “Europe is top of the world in designing strategies but is slow in acting

Michael Rake (Chair, BT)  “ There has been too much intellectual discussion … We’ve spent too much time focusing on the Lisbon Treaty rather than the Lisbon Agenda. Europe is facing huge competition from the South and the East in a globalized economy. It is very difficult for politicians to deal with this. It takes huge courage to say the truth clearly and to follow-up on it. It will require huge levels of leadership to bring us together now.”

All four are spot on.  The crisis of the eurocrisis is slowly making leaders realise that we now live in a different world to that when the EU was first started in a small way in 1956.  The processes, the mental attitude of the Euro-elites, are out of date.  Forming an ever closer union by small steps so no-one would notice is no longer valid. “Unity in diversity” is valid only if the emphasis is on “unity”. Those who prioritize “diversity” are those who are  now holding back the European dream in todays’ world.   The most recent example being the squabbles over the European Patent Office.  It brings considerable economic benefit to European companies in the global market place. Delayed and stalled because of languages and location squabbles.

If you want to prioritize diversity then you need to accept a much looser, more fragmented Europe.  That’s what Cameron would want; it’s not what the Europhiles have professed they want.  Now is the time , as Merkel says, to move authority to Brussels and away from national decisions.

But there is a catch and Cameron identifies it perfectly. Well two catches.  The EU institutions in Brussels are not fit for this new purpose. They were designed for a different world and a different purpose (even as recently as the Lisbon treaty).   They are not right in structural terms (and certainly not in efficiency terms) and neither in terms of the internal culture.  A stronger centre cannot work with intra-institutional bickering.

The second reason is demonstrated daily in the streets of Spain and Greece and other member states.  The “democratic deficit” long agonised over but rarely tackled in a serious manner (Mark Leonard points out the German problem) becomes a democratic nightmare if powers are transferred a la Merkel to the existing Brussels structure.   It is noticeable how little the weak European Parliament has been involved in the crisis of the eurocrisis.  The “secret” cabal of wise men (Juncker, van Rompuy, Draghi and Barroso)  asked to come up with a vision excludes the Parliament.

The EU has been built-in the crab-like culture of hidden alleyways.  In many ways it has been successful (again Cameron points out the real impact of low-cost air travel and cheaper roaming charges: pragmatic not intellectual).

A new European Union is called for: a strong Parliament for democratic control: a single President presiding, subject to Parliament over a European civil service (a reformed Commission)  who are accountable to the Parliament in far more detail and authority than “co-decision” can ever achieve.

But it is essential to gain public support.  Not through fear as demonstrated in the recent Irish vote. Not through bullying and threats as we are seeing before the Greek vote; not through symbolism as Cameron warns against; but through a bottom up, citizens led new Europe.

That is what the Year of Active Citizenship should be about rather than extolling the virtues of the current Commission. Let us not repeat the mistake of the Convention. It started with the aim of bringing Europe closer to the people (surely the wrong way round but let’s overlook that) and ended up under the Kerr/Amato insiders smug approach of a constitution of supreme legal and bureaucratic sub-clauses.  A ratings agency would have used its lowest junk score.

More Europe?  Yes. But not more of the same Europe.

 

It’s the same there: China and cultural diplomacy

There is an interesting diplomatic spat between USA and China at the moment.  No not the headline human rights case of Chen Guangcheng, now safely at a New York university (but not his family who are held as hostages in effect: a time-honoured tactic) .

The spat is over teachers at Confucius Institutes in the USA.   According to reports:

A policy directive sent by the U.S. Department of State to universities that sponsor Confucius Institutes suggests that the language and cultural centers that are a key piece of the Chinese government’s diplomatic outreach will have to change how they operate or fall afoul of American visa laws.

The memorandum, dated May 17, states that any academics at university-based institutes who are teaching at the elementary- and secondary-school levels are violating the terms of their visas and must leave at the end of this academic year, in June. And it says that, after a “preliminary review,” the State Department has determined that the institutes must obtain American accreditation in order to continue to accept foreign scholars and professors as teachers

State Department has said that it expects the issue to be resolved: it seems to link to a Chinese adminstrative move against foreign teachers in China.

The Chinese press has had a field day.  What struck me was how the comments to news stories are identical to comments about European cultural diplomacy activity and organisations.    Look at the comments in this report: on the 500,000 tweets on China’s own twitter system, Sina.

I oppose these kinds of Confucius studies organized by the government. It’s quite soured. How about our government spend more money on its own people? Confucius Institutes are really funny

I think it is quite normal. Chinese people haven’t made its domestic education good. How can they go to promote “Confucius Institutes”?!

Different values; same debates.

 

The cultural and creative sectors contribution to the EU is fundamentally important

“We would see funds redistributed from the Common Agricultural Policy towards other programmes such as Creative Europe, which offers growth potential”

The UK Parliament’s committee looking at the European Commission’s proposed budget from 2014-20 has given  resounding support to the Creative Europe proposals. It asks the UK government to reconsider its position.  I’ve written about the committee’s previous meetings here (Ministers view); here (the sectors and EC view) and the preliminary verdict here.

The final report gives a clear overview of the Commissions’  total spending plans, far clearer than anything I can find on the Commissions’ own Europa website: openness, transparency and public accountability are not Commission virtues).

” The cultural and creative sectors contribution to the EU is fundamentally important. We heard compelling evidence that the increased budget proposed by the Commission would stimulate job creation and growth in line with the Europe 2020 strategy. In the context of domestic funding cuts, and the organisations obvious capacity for attracting EU funding, we call for the Government to support a proportionately larger budget allocation to this area, which represents only a very small proportion of the total MFF.

We also call on the Government to reconsider its position regarding the proposed financial facility. Businesses in the cultural and creative sectors often experience greater difficulty in attracting investment than their counterparts in other sectors. The Commission’s proposed financial facility could offer an important bridging mechanism between these sectors and private-sector investment.

We also call on the Government to reconsider its position regarding the proposed financial facility. Businesses in the cultural and creative sectors often experience greater difficulty in attracting investment than their counterparts in other sectors. The Commission’s proposed financial facility could offer an important bridging mechanism between these sectors and private-sector investment.

A welcome call.  It is interesting to see that the support for Creative Europe does not match the views of many of its supporters.  No mention of forging a closer European citizenship and no mention of artistic and creative benefit.  Pragmatic and to the point, perhaps a better reflection of the role of EC funding.

The report also supports increased educational spending and improved EC communications to citizens.

Will the UK government make these arguments at the EU Education and Culture meeting on 10-11 May?

Who knows?

 

 

The new soft power player: people

Soft power is associated with nation states or groupings of states.  The “West’s ” soft power played a key role in ending the Cold War according to its proponents.  The more adventurous supporters go further: the “Beatles and demin” were more powerful than economic collapse and missiles.

The USA has soft power; the EU is trying to think of its soft power, China is embarking on a major soft power drive.

Nowadays the term soft power is used indiscriminately. Rather like public diplomacy a few years ago. It has become the fashion in thinking circles.

The term itself embodies two very opposite characteristics. Soft.. nice the cuddly.  The arts, schools, universities, academics talking to each other, consumer goodies.  It is extended into the universal values arena:  political groupings which accept defeat and opposition; democracy, religious freedom etc.

Power is overlooked.  Power is hard by definition.  This is not the area of mutual understanding and awareness to use another universal phrase.

Power means convincing others to do what you want them to do.. and which they are not doing now.

“Soft power is no power” is a common riposte from the hard powerists (trade, military, the world of sanctions, boycotts, leading up to invasions and conflict).  There is very little serious evaluation of whether soft power really works.  Lots of theory; lots of anecdotes, lots of belief and an increasing number of indices (see my earlier articles and here).  But where’s the evidence?  I’ll explore this in the next article in this series.

But there is a new soft power on the block:  people,  individual people.  It is likely that the online digital activism of Avaaz.org and others will block the relatively secretly organised international agreement on internet control:  ACTA.

Nellie Kroes, the European Commissioner says:

“We have recently seen how many thousands of people are willing to protest against rules which they see as constraining the openness and innovation of the internet. This is a strong new political voice,” Kroes said in a speech at the Re:publica conference in Berlin. “And as a force for openness, I welcome it, even if I do not always agree with everything it says on every subject.”

“We are now likely to be in a world without [the stalled US act] SOPA and without ACTA. Now we need to find solutions to make the internet a place of freedom, openness, and innovation fit for all citizens, not just for the techno avant-garde,” Kroes continued.

It was not many thousands. It was millions.  from many countries.   Several governments are going to be seriously angry at the ending of ACTA.   Soft power in the hands of people.  Do I hear democracy by citizens rather than democracy by vested interests?

 

More Europe? More Europeans

With austerity and unemployment rising across most of Europe now is certainly the time for more Europe.  Comments by candidate Sarkozy, seeking the racist vote were quite frankly appalling for a President or any politician seeking high office.   (“They must know which side of the Mediterraean they live in”).

I make no concessions to this view.  The closer, and to adopt a Chinese buzz word in its most progressive meaning, harmonious Europe we have the better for everyone.  It is not just a case for eurozone countries to work together or closing down out-of-date tax loopholes between countries. We need to move to a more positive approach to Europeanness at the personal level. For far too long the EU has focused on the corporate and national.  In the next period.. and starting now not waiting for the 2014-20  “Europe 2020” agenda the priority must be to bring Europeans together.

“Unity in Diversity” is being abused to mean “my diversity is paramount” as nationalism and regionalism take precedence. It is no use arguing for More Europe if the target audience, the participants are the already cosmopolitan members of European society.   At the same time I think it is useless to promote some ideal “European Culture”: a favoured viewpoint of an intellectual elite.

As a starting point I recommend this publication from the Council of Europe:  “A Handbook on Tolerance and Cultural Diversity in Europe”.   The European Year of Citizens in 2013 has a fundamental political task in taking head on politicians at local, regional and national level, the commission and civil society.

Creative Europe strikes back

Creative Europe struck back yesterday at the House of Lords committee which is reviewing the European Commission’s proposed new culture programme.  Last week the UK’s minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, said the UK government will oppose the planned 37% budget increase.   Yesterday Ann Branch (European Commission), Yvette Vaughan Jones (Visiting Arts and the UK’s Cultural Contact Point) and Agnieszka Moody (MEDIA Desk UK.) refuted Vaizeys’ objections.

Last week I said that the supporters of the Creative Europe programme need to offer hard facts rather than appeals to vague concepts of “Europeanness” if they are to convince politicians to support the increase in the EC’s culture budget. That is precisely the approach the three “witnesses” took yesterday.

To every question they replied with hard facts and practical explanations of the impact the EC Culture programme has.  Benefits to UK?.. of course; benefits to arts and creative professionals?..here’s an example, benefits to wider society?.. lets look a this example,  supporting jobs and growth?.. look at the numbers and the multipliers, is there European added value?.. see through these examples, Will the increase benefit the UK arts sector and society?  here’s another example.  On the critical issue of the proposed loan guarantee facility the Ann Branch gave compelling evidence of support from the European Investment Bank.

Watch the session here on Parliament TV.

Vaizey was clearly embarrassed last week when he said there had only been 6 responses to the UK consultation exercise run by his ministry.   He extended the deadline to 26 March.  The CCP, and this blog, alerted the arts sector.  There are no nearly 50 responses.  There are still a few days to get more responses.  Send them to DCMS.

The Committee were clearly impressed when the sheer scale of consultation across Europe was listed by the three witnesses.

And now?   My guess is that the Committee will support the increase in the programme, re-assure the Minister that EU funding is not replacing reduced UK arts funding and will benefit the UK sectors.   The big question is less over the Creative Europe budget itself.   I suspect that over the next 12 months as heads of government start to become involved over the EC budget as a whole .. and I guess that the EC will not get away with any real increases but have a static budget (except for inflation) then the inter-programme battles will resume within the Commission.  The issue then is whether the proposed culture programme benefits Europe’s (not the sector) jobs and growth strategy more than other programmes run by the EU. We all have our favourite programme to hate.  Naturally the Common Agricultural Programme tops my listing!

“Creative Europe”: yes but no more money says UK Minister

The UK will oppose the proposed 37% increase in the EU’s culture budget.  The European Commission has put forward a new programme for 2014-2020 under the banner “Creative Europe” to cover culture, media and a “cross sectoral financing facility”.  Ed Vaizey, the UK’s Minister for Culture, Communication and the Creative Industries told a Parliamentary Committee on 15 March that the UK does not support any increase in the EC’s budget, in these days of austerity. Consequently it opposes the increase in the culture budget.  (The Minister’s uncorrected comments to the Committee are here).

Vaizey gave strong support to the objectives of the culture programme and to the support to the media and film industries.  In particular he supported the translation programme saying the publishing industry was often overlooked.

Vaizey said: “On one level it is unusual for me as a Culture Minister to oppose a proposed substantial increase in a budget designed to support the cultural and creative industries, but I do oppose it because I very much sign up to the Government’s position that in times of great economic austerity, when the European Union should be focused on growth, looking hard at its budget and the money it spends and reducing it if possible, it would be terribly wrong for me, given my own particular passion, to say, “That’s all very well but we’ll take the increase in the culture programme“.

 

He singled out the proposed financial facility  for strong opposition .  The Commission have proposed this loan guarantee facility as small  businesses in the creative industries have difficulty attracting commercial loans from the financial sector in many countries.  Vaizey disputed this. His objections rested on the risk that starting such a loan guarantee system ran the risk of other sectors seeking similar preferential treatment, and that the better way  forward was to educate the investors.  His own ministry has recently launched a support scheme based around tax relief.

Two surprises came from the hearing.  Vaizey does not know or meet his ministerial counterparts across the EU. He did recall a short meeting with the French Culture Minister at the Venice Architectural Biennale.    Secondly his Ministry  has only received 6 responses to its consultation on Creative Europe.  This clearly concerned the Minister.  So much so that the Cultural Contact Point wrote out that evening saying the deadline for comments has been extended to 26 March.

The UK’s view is not surprising. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he will not let the EC claim an exception to the general cuts in government spending that we are seeing across the EU.  The EC’s culture budget increase is a casualty of this policy.   The messages for the “We are More”  campaigners are clear:

* the need to argue why culture is more effective than other areas of EC spend (presumably the Common Agriculture Policy as the largest element of the EU’s budget)

* why the local guarantee facility will help small and medium companies in the creative and cultural sector.

* and, in the UK, to get your views to DCMS and Vaizey before 26 March.

General pleas to a conceptual idea of a “Europeanness” will fall I suspect fall on deaf ears (the point of another article soon).  As governments cut their own budgets only hard evidence will sway them now.

Framing the Creative Cities agenda

Cities around the world aspire to be creative.  Creativity is the key to success, to prosperity, to growth. It is difficult to find a city PR message which does not proclaim it as, or aspiring to be, a creative city, or hub, or focal point.  Creativity has become the great global battleground for cities. Conversely no city dares promote itself as “uncreative” (except the area of north east London where I live).

So if creativity is the key to urban nirvana how do we measure it? What factors come into play? If city mayors and leaders know these infallible factors then their route map to success can be plotted (until perhaps the next election).

“Global city index construction is a new emerging industry”: the words of Professor John Hartley and his colleagues at Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University in Australia. Hartley, commissioned by the Beijing Research Centre for Science of Science, has duly entered the arena with a new Index.

The Index “(C2I)2 = CCI-CCI Creative City Index” to use its catchy title incorporates 8 themes, 72 components and over 250 individual data points.

In presenting the Index Hartley has done cities and planners a major service. He reviews 22 other Indexes. Yes that’s right, 22 City Indexes; from the USA, Europe, Japan, Australia and international bodies.  The big names are there: Richard Florida, and Charles Landry  as well as host of others.   I challenge anyone to list the 22 (without a quick glance at the report!).

The assembled indexes cluster around 16 themes.  Some are driven by economists, some by sociologists: an important distinction. The short summaries and analyses are perfect for a quick but comprehensive overview of the nuances of importance and interpretation.

Some soundbites:

“a creative city is not the same as a global city”

“caution about “real-estate” city development” (e.g. Canberra and new cities in China and Korea)

*importance of festivals: where freer and more open engagements between arts producers and audience

“small cinemas more likely to show independent films rather than large scale cinemas”

*divorce rate a good indicator of women’s freedom and subversion of strong conservative cultural norms.

I was particularly attracted to several items:

•            The emphasis on the youth sector as the driver for change , experimentation and innovation

•            How cultural factors can distort global comparisons:  the non-collection of data in one country; the failure to disclose information; how not to focus on western cultural norms of systems,

•            The importance of a free cultural environment not just a top down built, provided, supported structure.

•            And given a Chinese client: the importance of looking at equivalent Chinese cultural factors: not special ones but equivalents.

To conclude I recommend that anyone interested in city  development, in cultural and creative cities, reads the report.  .   To quote:

…a global city must first be a creative city, and a creative city is invariably powered by energy and entrepreneurial experimentation of the young, of the outsider, of those seeking to new ideas and to challenge existing ideas.  A creative city will invariably be complex and challenging, “lovable” more than “likeable”, edgy rather than middle of the road, often with a clash of cultures, demographics and ideas in its mix”.

Indexes help frame a debate. It will be interesting to learn of the reactions of the Chinese, or of any other city with a strong controlling culture (whether political, religious or social)  to this conclusion.  Can mayors, politicians and planners promote inward migration, an edgy challenging city?    Based on this index, and indeed most of the other under review, they may need to loosen up!

 

 

China: in sounds and images

Imogen Heap, an award winning, musician, recently spent six weeks in Hangzhou in China.    She made this beautiful video  http://www.youtube.com/embed/jgvAx2Bdt-o.

The song will form part of her next album.  It’s interesting to see how an artist sees, and hears, a different city; which images and impressions make it to the finished product.

In the Guardian she explains:

Well, I’ve just come back from six weeks in Hangzhou in China. The British Council and the PRS for Music Foundation helped fund the trip – I had to put in an application – but it ended up being much more expensive than planned. Before I went I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I’d heard that people practise qigong by the lake, and that there’s a famous temple bell that’s rung at sunset every evening, so I was thinking about finding a rhythm in the chaos of this huge city and a journey through it in the course of a day.

I ended up curating this 24-hour period. It was my birthday as well.  I wanted to combine the sorts of things that happen there every day with different media and art forms. We filmed the whole thing and then I drew on all the sounds for my latest Heapsong.  So we filmed the fishermen out on the lake at midnight, but it’s kind of illegal to do that, so we had them fishing out a treasure map. And there are a lot of skateboarders there, so we filmed them at 1am, surrounded by a ring of taxi drivers shining their lights on them.

We went into a primary school class, where the children were doing their eye exercises, and the teacher giving them their instructions gave us our tempo. The sound of the newspaper printing presses – that became the beat. And we caught this woman who heads up this huge hill to a temple every day at sunrise and screams at the top of her lungs, so the sound of that is now in the middle section of the song.