Last update: 19 05 2010
Cultural bonds in Visegrad
Visegrad countries are connected by strong historical ties and they share common cultural heritage. Within the Visegrad Group not only meetings of heads of governments are held at the highest level of intergovernmental co-operation but also meetings of ministers of culture at lower level. They meet twice a year.
Every year individuals and corporations nominated by ministers of culture are awarded by International Visegrad Prize for their outstanding activity in supporting the development of cultural co-operation of the countries of the Visegrad Group during previous four years. The first prize was given to László Szigeti (Slovakia) in April 2005 for the work of Kalligram Publishing Company.
Joint disposal of around 100,000 euro per year from each country is used for financing of joint cultural activities and presentations of the culture of the member countries of the Visegrad Group (V4) for the European audience. All projects are coordinated by International Visegrad Fund.
Visegrad countries also underline the significance of EU funds for the development of cultural infrastructure preserving of cultural heritage and implementation of cultural initiatives. Therefore they want to establish strong cooperation on the utilization of EU funds in the culture sector. As a part of their common position they would also like to strengthen the position of culture in the new EU Financing Perspective 2014 – 2020.
All four countries take their part in European Capital of Culture - Hungarian Pécs holds this prestigious title in 2010, Slovakian city of Košice in 2013 and Czech Republic is planning to participate again in 2015 – with (the Czech capital Prague became the first Czech holder of the European Capital of Culture title in 2000) and Poland in 2016.
Visegrad has unique culture to share – for example their historical cities or well-know spas. Also many Jewish sites have been preserved in the Visegrad countries and became a popular tourist spots. Numerous sights ranging from villages, towns, castles to natural resorts are registered in the UNESCO World Cultural heritage list:
- Historic Centre of Český Krumlov
- Historic Centre of Prague
- Historic Centre of Telč
- Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora
- Kutná Hora: Historical Town Centre with the Church of St Barbara and the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec
- Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape
- Gardens and Castle at Kroměříž
- Holašovice Historical Village Reservation
- Litomyšl Castle
- Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc
- Tugendhat Villa in Brno
- Jewish Quarter and St Procopius' Basilica in Třebíč
- Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue
- Old Village of Hollókő and its Surroundings
- Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst
- Millenary Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma and its Natural Environment
- Hortobágy National Park - the Puszta
- Early Christian Necropolis of Pécs (Sopianae)
- Fertö / Neusiedlersee Cultural Landscape
- Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape
- Cracow's Historic Centre
- Wieliczka Salt Mine
- Auschwitz Birkenau
- German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)
- Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Białowieża Forest *
- Historic Centre of Warsaw
- Old City of Zamość
- Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork
- Medieval Town of Toruń
- Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park
- Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica
- Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland
- Muskauer Park / Park Mużakowski *
- Centennial Hall in Wrocław
- Historic Town of Banská Štiavnica and the Technical Monuments in its Vicinity
- Levoča, Spišský Hrad and the Associated Cultural Monuments
- Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst *
- Bardejov Town Conservation Reserve
- Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians *
- Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of the Carpathian Mountain Area
Before 1989 the cultural policy in Czechoslovakia was based mainly on the use of culture as an ideological instrument and the privilege role of state. The first national cultural policy of the Czech Republic was formulated by minister of culture Pavel Tigrid after the end of communist era and the first political program was established in 2001.
In November 2008 the government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek approved The National Cultural Policy Document for years 2009 – 2014. The general elections are expected to take place in the spring of 2010 and it is not obvious the new elected government accepts or rewords this document.
According to the Strategy culture is viewed as a „ticket to the future“, and as a sector which can play a fundamental role in the development of Czech society in the future. The document also specifies main objectives of Czech cultural policy. These are: using the benefits of the arts and cultural heritage and associated creativity to increase competitive strength in other areas and activities, emphasizing the role of culture in individual professional and personal development of citizens (especially with regard to creativity), providing direct and indirect support to maintain existing cultural values and create new values and creating a transparent and non-discriminating environment for cultural activities and their support at the levels of state, regions and municipalities.
The central body of the state administration of art, culture, education, cultural monuments, church and religious organizations, media, radio and television broadcasting is the Ministry of Culture.
During last ten years public budget expenses in the field of culture have been nominally growing, in reality they remain approximately stable (at 0.59 % of GDP in 2010). Off-budgetary sources are state cultural funds and European structural funds.
After the public administration reform, some responsibilities in the area of public cultural services were transferred to municipalities and regions. They both can support the cultural development from their budgets and establish cultural institutions, mainly libraries, museums, galleries, theaters orchestras etc. Museums and galleries can also be established by towns, civic societies, private initiative and legal entities. Several cities in the Czech Republic practice their own cultural policy. The best example is Pilsen.
The whole system is criticized for general lack of financial means, the insufficient, unstable and often non-transparent grant system, an out-of-date technical equipment, slowly progressing digitization and low level of modernization. On the other side the government recently approved the encouragement program for film industry (400 million CZK/15.5 mil euro) and backed the concept for supporting the cinematography.
Official language of the country is the Czech language and the constitution sets the conditions for fulfilling and respecting cultural rights of all citizens including the national and ethnic minorities (Bulgarian, Croatian, Hungarian, German, Polish, Romany, Ruthenian, Russian, Greek, Slovak, Serbian and Ukrainian).
The Czech Capital Prague became the first Czech holder of the European Capital of Culture title in 2000. It accompanied other nine European cities. Another opportunity awaits the Czech Republic in 2015. The candidate cities are Pilsen and Ostrava.
After the changeover in 1989, also cultural policy has gone through enormous political changes in Hungary. The new legal background, which came into force in the 1990, had also paved the legal way to freedom of expression by all means, from media to culture.
“For 1.100 years we have been safekeeping Hungarian culture in the heart of Europe, and along with it a Hungarian identity, which with disappearance of borders has become our foremost community-forming strength. History has adapted us and our culture just as we have played our part in forming European history and enriching its culture.” - Hungarian National Tourist Office states. Indeed cultural tourism is one of the best export products of Hungary. It produces nearly 10 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
In its program for 2006-2010 the Hungarian socialist government defined culture as the creator of the “frameworks of self-esteem of people, regions and nation”. It further expresses the importance of culture as a motor of innovation in all fields of life. Therefore the government thrived to “strengthen the national identity of Hungarians and secure equal access to cultural values” as a “modern, secular state”.
The strategy indicated a wide range of tasks. The most important are:
- ensuring the functioning and sustainability of the institutions of national arts and public collections;
- enhancing access to the market for cultural and creative industries and works, and strengthening demand for exigent and popular culture;
- expanding financial support through private capital and EU funding;
- integrating regional cultural centers to expand services of schools, libraries and other public institutions;
- pursuing the programs for digitalizing culture
The conservative government, elected in April 2010 has slightly changed the focus of cultural policy with proposing Géza Szőcs as a head of the Hungarian cultural policy (he is a writer originating from Transylvania, which is today part of Romania). The cultural policy of Fidesz-KDNP therefore is expected to broaden the focus much more also over the borders, trying to unite all ethnic Hungarians through their cultural heritage and fellowship.
However, trade unions often criticize governments for not having a strategic view on culture. They claim that during the past 20 years, none of the governments could achieve long term results nevertheless their grandiose programs had much positive effect on the short term. The trade union of cultural workers therefore recently urged the new government to make culture a “strategic sector”.
Pécs, the city in the South-Western part of Hungary with population of 160.000 is the European Capital of Culture this year. It was preparing for this period with massive development of its urban infrastructure and cultural institutions. The Hungarian city holds the series of event together with Essen and Istanbul.
The main changes in Poland’s cultural policy after 1989 have embraced privatization of previously state-owned culture industry establishments (e.g. cinemas and galleries), abolishing censorship, and decentralization of the authority of cultural public administration. Today, most cultural institutions operate on the level of local government. Under the 1990 Act on Local Government Administration local culture activity and the establishment of local cultural institutions have become the sphere of shared responsibility of the provincial, district and municipal / communal administrations. According to the Polish Central Statistical Office, within the last 5 years the share of spending on culture between the central government and local level governments has remained steady – with c. 21% provided by the former and c. 79% by the latter.
The National Culture Development Strategy 2004-2013 adopted in 2004 defines the mission of Polish cultural policy as “the sustainable development of culture as the highest value transmitted over generations, defining the Polish historical and civilization heritage in its entirety, the value conditioning the national identity and providing continuity to tradition and regional development.” The strategic aim of the
Strategy is balancing cultural development in the regions, while the main policy targets are:
- Enhancing effectiveness of culture management.
- Implementing innovative solutions in the system of cultural activity and culture proliferation.
- Reducing regional disproportions In cultural development.
- Improving participation and leveling chances of Access to the artistic education, goods and cultural services.
- Improving conditions of artistic activity.
- Effective promotion of artistic output.
- Preserving the cultural heritage and active monument protection.
- Reducing the civilization gap through modernization and development of cultural infrastructure.
The period the Strategy is to remain in force has been extended to 2020.
General public spending on culture constitutes just 0.37% of Polish budget, which correspond to c. 1,4bn PLN (348m EUR) in 2010. This sum is allocated from the Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment, as well as from the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries’ subsidies - so-called EEA Financial
Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism. Yet people from cultural sector complain that the costs covered by public, EU, and EFTA funding include spending on infrastructure mostly, but does not support running operational costs, including salaries (museum and gallery staff are one of the least paid employee groups on the pay list), programs, educational activities, or buying new collection items. Scarce means are allocated for the upkeep / renovation of existing works of art.
Culture Minister, Bogdan Zdrojewski, since taking office in October 2007, has been preparing a reform of Polish cultural policy. As part of its progression, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage organized the Congress of Polish Culture in Krakow in September 2009, where artists, academics and politicians gathered to discuss the state and prospective development of national culture. Ten research groups were commissioned to assess recommendations defined at the Congress. Conclusions were discussed in January 2010 during the first parliamentary debate devoted to culture in 20 years. Most important points have been included in the culture deregulation act, to be considered by the Parliament this autumn. Furthermore, Minister Zdrojewski has prepared the “Longstanding Government Program CULTURE+” (Wieloletni Program Rządowy KULTURA+) which diagnoses existence of significant disproportions between rural areas, small towns, and big cities in access to culture, and formulates three general strategies of combating them: LIBRARY+ the libraries’ infrastructure, COMMUNITY CENTRE+: community centers’ infrastructure, and DIGITALIZATION +.
The Ministry is also involved in the preparations of the European Capital of Culture 2016, as one of the Polish cities will bear the title. As yet, the following eleven cities compete for the title: Bydgoszcz, Białystok, Gdańsk, Katowice, Lublin, Łódź, Poznań, Szczecin, Toruń, Warszawa and Wrocław. The evaluation of candidate cities on the national level, which constitutes the first stage of the European Capital of Culture 2016 contest, is to be completed in autumn 2010.
The official national language of Poland is Polish. Poland is a very homogenous country in terms of language – 97,8% Polish citizens declared in the National Census of 2002 that they spoke Polish at home. Poland has also 16 indigenous minority languages that divide into three categories: regional (Kashubian, Silesian, Ruthenian/Lemkish, Wilamowicean), minority (Byelorussian, Czech, German, Lithuanian, Russian, Slovak, Ukrainian) and diaspora (Romany dialects, Hebrew and Yiddish, Karaim, Armenian). Poland guarantees the right to learn minority languages as mother tongues, since the ruling by the Ministry of National Education and Sport was adopted in December 3, 2002. The national interest in protecting the Polish language (from especially English-language influences) was expressed through the adoption of The Polish Language Act in 1999.
Slovak culture has been shaped by many factors due to its geographical position – in the middle of Europe. Socio-economic transformation after 1989 influenced also the cultural policy. The main focus of the cultural policy was development of almost non-existing media or cultural heritage legislation, financial instruments and support mechanisms to promote unique Slovak culture. But the progress of the changes was very slow. For example the old media law from 1966 was replaced by a new one in 2008, after almost 42 years.
In its program for the years 2006 – 2010 Slovak government defines cultural policy as a necessary condition for increasing the quality of life of the Slovak citizens. Document states that the protection and using of cultural heritage and support of new national production and its presentation is one of the pillars of preserving and strengthening Slovak cultural identity. Government uses wide range of cultural policy tools – direct (for example public subsidies supporting public interest in the area of culture or by activities of public authorities) and also indirect (regulation, tax incentives, donors).
The Strategy for State Cultural Policy defines four main focusing areas – Live culture (music, theatre, film, architecture…), cultural heritage (monuments, museums, galleries and libraries), media environment and transversal aspects of state cultural policy (supporting the culture of national minorities, presentation of Slovak culture etc.).
According to Ministry of culture the main objectives of cultural policy stem from international and European norms. They include:
- ensuring the ideological neutrality of the state action in the area of culture,
- freedom of expression and artistic creation for all and creating real conditions for its application,
- protection and access to cultural heritage,
- its systematic digitization and computerization of cultural infrastructure,
- conditions for the effective integration of culture in processes conducive to promotion of tourism and services and also creating an environment permitting all people to participate in cultural life,
- engage in own creative activities and have access to cultural values and enabling arts and culture to be an independent and dynamic factor in the development of civil society and
- to co-participate in its economic development and conditions for the effective integration of culture in processes conducive to promotion of tourism and services, etc.
The only official language is Slovak language. In its program government committed “to take care of the development and protection of the Slovak language, as the state language, in working with the relevant state and scientific institutions, as well as with the specialized workplaces of Matica slovenská“. Matica slovenská is state organization focusing on language and culture. For the minorities Treaty guarantee right to develop their own culture, to receive and spread information in their language, the right for the education in their language and to use their language in public offices.
In June 2009 Slovak parliament passed the new Language Act, the amended state language law, tabled by Culture Minister Marek Maďarič. According to the law Slovak is the mandatory language over any other languages spoken or written in Slovakia. It created tensions as Hungarian minority feared being singled out, other minorities have raised no objections.
Cultural initiatives in Slovakia are primarily funded form public sources at national, regional and also local level. It also uses European programs. Slovakia participates on wide range of inter-cultural projects. One of the most prestigious is the European Capital of Culture.
The eastern economic and cultural centre Košice will be the European Capital of Culture in 2013 together with French city Marseille. It is first Slovak town holding this title. This event is set to be the largest cultural project in the country´s history, with not only Košice and its region but also Slovakia as a whole in the limelight.
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