Culture is a key of the European togetherness and is impossible to maintain it out of the rhetoric and activity of the European institutions, although it remains to a large extent domain of the nation-state. By rhetoric, I mean what is communicated and spread among the engaged citizens and other citizens that are also delegating administrative will. In spoken language or written. Language present in public speeches, or private communications under specific conditions, with signatures. Language elevated to law, or order of the council.
But this is such a general object for every kind of paper so that this paper aims to analyze some possible meanings of the term ‘culture’ in the language practiced in Albanian documents that concern culture itself. For a possibility to compare and place the discussion in a continuous narrative, European documents that strategize approaches for culture are considered appropriate.
In this paper I refer at the strategy of 2007 which promoted some orienting objectives that remained most often cited till the new agenda on culture was presented last year by the EU Commission, proposing a new approach to the terms.
The paper will try to follow the concept of culture as it is refracted in strategies and other documents in Albania, a candidate state that much esteems the EU membership. Paying attention to the aesthetics and moods of the language in the documents taken into consideration makes the approach of this paperless scientific, but it also helps a better understanding of the issues.
Key words: Culture in the European Union, EU culture Agenda, Albanian cultural policies
Culture remains a difficult concept. Culture counts at the same time for what makes people together and what distinguishes them most. It describes on turns the product, the activity and the agency of one of the most distinguished capacities of the humans, their creativity. But it is also a word that brings meanings in a document that can be a law, a strategy, an intimate talk.
My belief is that by the easy practice of following the word itself in a number of diverse documents a narrative is created that invites a better informed culture’ practitioner.
The approach of the paper
The paper aims to 1) present its readers with a variety of examples of the uses and meanings attached to the ‘culture’ at different levels of governing, at different amount of resources, at different developmental stages or historic-geographic context, at different objectives; 2) ask the appropriateness of the uses and meanings attached to the ‘culture’ in Albanian in the current governance.
The New Agenda on Culture 2018 represents an important document that apart from orienting the activity on the realm of culture is indicative of the developments that the EU is going through and the ways to tackle it. Comparing this document with the 2007’ European Agenda on Culture in a Globalizing World provides a useful tool in the understanding evolvement of uses and meanings of culture in the EU.
The relevance of the EU vision and approach for the cultural realities in Albania is curious and should be the object of systematic investigation by the involved actors. Resources and efforts in the realm of culture in Albania are limited and the profile of the involved actors is undergoing through a series of changes.
II. Few interpretations of “culture” in the EU legislation
a. “Diversity” and “heritage” are among the most promoted and esteemed words in explaining the activity in the realm of culture in the EU. But many read-only “generalization” and “unification” among cultures and of abandoning the national continuity. And so EU who has been a promoter of openness and development in its member states ends up supplying with arguments many populist discourses in political rivalries across the continent.
EU represents a political and economic union of states, who are themselves responsible for their own culture sector policies, while EU institutions mainly assist in addressing common challenges. It clearly tells about limited EU powers but also provides EU with conditions of ‘comfort’ in defining and approaching culture.
For EU the culture remains in the domain of the nation-state. In the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union in Article 167 is stated that.
"The Community shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common heritage to the fore."
"Action by the Community shall be aimed at encouraging cooperation between the Member States and, if necessary, supporting and supplementing their action …."
"The Community and the Member States shall foster cooperation with third countries and the competent international organizations in the sphere of culture, in particular, the Council of Europe."
"The Community shall take cultural aspects into account in its action under other provisions of this Treaty, in particular in order to respect and to promote the diversity of its cultures."
EU engagement in culture remains with the Council and the Parliament, in point 5 of the same article of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union is stated that:
“In order to contribute to the achievement of the objectives referred to in this Article:
— the European Parliament and the Council acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure and after consulting the Committee of the Regions shall adopt incentive measures, excluding any harmonization of the laws and regulations of the Member States,
— the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, shall adopt recommendations.”
In identifying its’ challenges the New Culture Agenda counts “Emerging from a severe financial crisis, Europe faces growing social inequalities, diverse populations, populism, radicalisation, and terrorist threats. New technologies and digital communication are transforming societies, changing lifestyles, consumption patterns and power relationships in economic value chains. In this changing landscape, the role of culture is more important than ever.”
b. European agendas for culture, a comparison
EU has been presented with a new agenda for culture since spring 2018. It changes from the previous ones in many ways. In viewing themselves and the reality surrounding them and in perceiving their role and presenting it to attract trust and support. In facing these challenges it seems there are a number of answers that can be better observed if the document is taken into consideration comparison. For this comparison, I have chosen the “European Agenda for Culture in a Globalizing World” of 2007. This document, adopted and recommended also from the Council, remains an important and frequently cited in documents that concern with the culture.
Changes among the two documents are present in the point of view of the EU and the realities it faces, in the perception of the EU’s role to attract support. This comparison although far from being accurate of the argument offers a possibility to follow developments.
The section about the Challenges and the ambition of the New Agenda starts as:
“Emerging from a severe financial crisis, Europe faces growing social inequalities, diverse populations, populism, radicalization, and terrorist threats. New technologies and digital communication are transforming societies, changing lifestyles, consumption patterns and power relationships in economic value chains. In this changing landscape, the role of culture is more important than ever.”
While the previous strategy had not such a chapter at all. It had a “Purpose of the Communication” that begun: “Awareness is growing that the EU has a unique role to play in promoting its cultural richness and diversity, both within Europe and worldwide. There is also an acknowledgment that culture is an indispensable feature to achieve the EU's strategic objectives of prosperity, solidarity, and security while ensuring a stronger presence on the international scene.”
The new agenda has introduced in this paragraph the recognition of a Caller, telling us about European institutional constellation, as the last paragraph of the introduction: “The New European Agenda for Culture (the New Agenda) responds to the European Leaders' invitation to do more, through culture and education, to build cohesive societies and offer a vision of an attractive European Union. It aims to harness the full potential of culture to help build a more inclusive and fairer Union, supporting innovation, creativity and sustainable jobs and growth.”
The 2007 agenda did not have such a need although it was clearly longer. In 2007 there is a lot of poetic reference and reliance in intellectual entrepreneurship. The European Agenda for Culture in a Globalizing World defines culture as follows: “Culture lies at the heart of human development and civilization. Culture is what makes people hope and dream, by stimulating our senses and offering new ways of looking at reality. It is what brings people together, by stirring dialogue and arousing passions, in a way that unites rather than divides. Culture should be regarded as a set of distinctive spiritual and material traits that characterize a society and social group. It embraces literature and arts as well as ways of life, value systems, traditions, and beliefs...”
This communication of the commission to the council and the parliament start with a reference from the Swiss writer and cultural theorist Denis de Rougemont:
"Culture is all the dreams and labor tending towards forging humanity. Culture requests a paradoxical pact: diversity must be the principle of unity, taking stock of differences is necessary not to divide, but to enrich culture even more. Europe is a culture or it is not."
And then the text contains an abundant number of references of writers and artists.
In the New Agenda, there are none of these kinds of references.
November 2007’ European Agenda for Culture had these strategic objectives:
- the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue,
- the promotion of culture as a catalyst for creativity in the framework of the Lisbon strategy for growth, employment, innovation, and competitiveness,
- and the promotion of culture as a vital element in the Union's international relations;
While the New European Agenda for Culture, submitted by the European Commission in May 2018, which defines three strategic objectives:
- harnessing the power of culture and cultural diversity for social cohesion and well-being by promoting cultural participation, the mobility of artists and the protection of heritage;
- supporting culture-based creativity in education and innovation and for jobs and growth
- strengthening international cultural relations;
It is easy to notice that it is the concept of culture itself that is somehow shifting its meaning. It now serves social cohesion and well-being. From a catalyst of creativity, the culture now has to support creativity in education and innovation. Culture is not an object of the sentence any longer, it is a subject. It is time for the culture to work.
The first sub-objective of the first strategic objective of the 2018 Agenda, its’ social dimension says that is aims to: “Foster the cultural capability of all Europeans by making available a wide range of cultural activities and providing opportunities to participate actively.
The term cultural capability clarified in the notes refers to the ideas of the economist Amartya Sen and philosopher Marta Nussbaum.
Trying for a quick understanding of the capability this reference was selected from the explanation of the idea from the online vocabulary of Stanford University where the concept is treated in relation to the functioning:
“…The first consideration is normative, and this is the argument Sen and Nussbaum most often offer: by focusing on capabilities rather than functioning, we do not privilege a particular account of good lives but instead aim at a range of possible ways of life from which each person can choose…
… A second normative consideration stems from the importance given to personal responsibility in contemporary political philosophy. If one believes that one should strive for equality of capability, then each person should have the same real opportunity (capability), but once that is in place, each individual should be held responsible for his or her own choices. This responsibility-sensitivity principle is widely endorsed not only in political philosophy but also in the mathematical models being developed in normative welfare economics…
… Third, there are cases in which a capability is available to a person but only if other people do not also want to realize that capability (Basu 1987: 74)…”
This new agenda also refers to a research of the Kings’ College in London where the term of cultural democracy is very much esteemed.“The benefits of cultural democracy are potentially very wide-ranging indeed, being experienced across arts and culture, education, creativity, industry, health, well-being and fulfillment, and impacting individuals, organisations and communities in many different ways (including self-expression, recognition, voice, transferable skills, career development, friendship and community).”The presentation of the research tells that the ‘deficit model’ who’s …“leading ambition has been to widen access to a particular cultural offering that is publicly funded and thereby identified as the good stuff.And the attack on the “good staff” continues further when it says that: “to promote cultural capability and to facilitate cultural democracy, the arts and creative industries require a rejection of any false dichotomy between amateur and professional. At the same time, the opportunity for new participants to work with experienced practitioners […] is one important way in which people can be enabled to create versions of culture together.”
The new agenda is much more concrete in its approach. It sees culture in pragmatic terms. It discusses the benefits of the culture in health and well-being. Acknowledges its’ transformative force for community regeneration, its benefits in education, in shaping cities and regions, and other forms of being industrious. It notes that for many Europeans, particularly younger people, cultural employment is an important entry point to the labor market (in Latvia, Romania, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Portugal, Estonia and Spain a higher proportion of 15-29 year old are employed in culture than in the economy as a whole).
The New Agenda also involves more with the Western Balkans when it declares that:“The Commission and the High Representative will: Promote the cultural and creative sectors in the Western Balkans through strengthened support from Creative Europe and envisage using the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance to support culture in the Enlargement countries and the Western Balkans, particularly in implementing the related flagship initiatives of the Action Plan in Support of the Transformation of the Western Balkans”.
This action plan mentions ‘culture’ six times, all of them in the action “Supporting reconciliation and good neighborly relations”. In its point 5 and 6 it says that the plan will:“Enhance cooperation in culture and sport, including work to protect the Western Balkans cultural heritage, to fight the illicit traffic in cultural goods, and promote its cultural and creative industries, including participation in the Creative Europe Program 2018.”
“Western Balkan countries will be fully associated with the European Year of Cultural Heritage and will be involved in all relevant events and initiatives. Launch an EU - Western Balkans Heritage Route, comprising a series of events celebrating cultural heritage in all its forms.”
Creative Europe and the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance which are primary instruments of the intervention of EU in the realm of culture are not subject of this paper as it concerns itself with a more discursive element of the issue.
Albania, culture an example from the Western Balkans
In shifting from a level of political organisation, as from that of the EU, at the national state as in the case of Albania, brings an important change in defining and using culture. The education, support through the local, assistance in initiatives and many more are part of the state’s engagement in culture, but concentrating at culture and its objectives go closer to the base were culture consumers, culture producers, etc.
Albania of high relevance in discursive political terms is the EU Commission report. It, not only presents the findings of ongoing observation and involvement but also offers legitimacy in the inner political debates. Commissions’ report on Albania in 2018 mentions the word culture when evaluating the country’s ability to assume the obligations of membership, where it states that “the country is moderately prepared in many areas, such as in financial control, education and culture, or has some level of preparation, including in the areas of public procurement and statistics.” It is difficult to visualize culture when in this group of stately activities. It seems like a bad mood has entered the writing, but in fact, it is part of a format. The same evaluation on the report for Serbia, in a very similar location, states that “Serbia has a good level of preparation in areas such as company law, intellectual property, science and research, education and culture, and customs.”In a word, find can be seen that there are 37 mentioning of culture in the report about Albania but 20 of them are agriculture, then five others as aquaculture, the also in titles and accompanying other names like administrative culture, ministry of culture, culture sector, culture strategy, etc. Engagement with culture issues is very limited. Furthermore, the Commission report found that “the total reported State aid stood at 0.15 % of GDP in 2016, mainly in the form of horizontal aid in the area of training, research and development, employment, culture and support to small and medium-sized enterprises”.
In the following year, Albania should “Adopt and implement the national strategy on culture for 2018-2022 to preserve Albania’s cultural heritage.” Meanwhile, there are a few other documents that allow for an understanding of the topic. The National Strategy for Development and Integration II mentions the word culture 72 times in 221 pages. Searching for an interpretation of the meaning given to the word culture in our context we don’t find much. If we would go for a casual choosing and selecting number thirteen, for example, we find culture in this sentence: “The most important source in Albania are human resources and as a consequence its society and culture”
This is very far in finding a meaning for the word culture.
The strategy for development and integration 2015 – 2020 had made known on the section of the culture that its main challenge is to give priority to the cultural product, as part of the social, economic and developmental program within the country and also promotion of Albanian values out of the country. With the aim of increasing the public’s role and access of the enlarged public in art, promotion for spiritual values and cultural heritage within the Albanian territory and the digitalisation of material heritage and non-artistic and culture is an effective and efficient government is required for the improvement of the cultural product.
While in the program of the government for the period 2017 – 2021, the culture its objectives are proclaimed in the section “Tourism and Culture”, in the subchapter, “Culture and Cultural tourism” and again articulates of the first rank the importance of the cultural product. “…the Government has as its priority the improvement of the standard of the quality of the cultural product, intensification of investment in this sector, growing independence of cultural stages from public structures (adding financial resources and public-private partnership) and use of culture as a resource for economy and tourism.”
And still, a definition of culture is missing from the strategy.The program of the government uses the word ‘culture’ with a variety of concepts that can spring from culture also like the culture of exercising power and European culture in traffic circulation (apart from cases as aquaculture or agriculture.)
Regarding the objectives of the Cultural Program 2013 – 2017 institutional reform is very much in presence to the program on Culture 2013 – 2017 published also in the webpage of the ministry, in its very first sentence states that “…art-culture, although has numerous institutions under its’ jurisdiction needs a sustainable reformation in institutional and human resources terms, but also with a new managerial approach from art-culture institutions, to increase the degree of their artistic independence on basis of generating profit from third resources.” This first pillar of the program on culture, that is mentioned here, misses very much an introduction to the program. Even the second pillar discuses this same reform and its impact as it guarantees that will be established “… a new mechanism in projection, distribution and management of foreseen funds for cultural and artistic projects.”
The program of the Socialist Party is nicer on these terms. On its division “Revival of the society” it states: “Our engagement: complete recreation of central and local cultural institutions, support and encouragement of creativity approached in harmony with the vision of the European Commission “Creative Europe”.
There is a lack of clearness in the organisation of the priorities in this document that can be interpreted in deciding for the quality of the thinking behind it, but its variety is to be noticed.
The first one is the creation of an internet platform that has six sub-points. In total there are 28 points. Number 26 is: “Access in culture is a foundational right, transformed in real possibilities for everybody. Its’ number 13-n is: “The cultural institutions of all the levels are open as meeting space and social interaction, as well as centres of social cohesion and communitarian solidarity.”
Albanian society meanwhile is establishing from a very rapid transformation from dictatorial times that where following times of long underdevelopment. The culture is being quickly infiltrated by different influences that sometimes have purposeful support. It is governments duty that they encounter some purposeful checking or resistance. Issues of culture in the context of European Union integration remain a priority on the agenda.
Uses of the term culture in documents inherit difficulties that are also encountered in social sciences and philosophy.
The state and the supranational organisation reflect continuity in their uses of the term allowing so that a further harmonization is aimed.
Culture is of great importance as the only remedy to many threats, but to it is recognized independence from legal and political action, although delivering important messages culture remains little attempted in its measure.
EU underlines the fact that competencies in culture reside with the nation state, on the other side at the state level a number of delicate equilibrium make it difficult to approach. Things like the tiny budget, some recent radical state involvement with the culture which led to conflict and other neighborly relations.
Not long ago the term multiculturalism was part of rhetoric in political life in various European countries, but this concept was not able to sustain the required progress for its own longevity and integration. From that time has continued the effort to complete the needed conceptual apparatus. Cultural capabilities and cultural democracy provide a proposal on this trail.
Thinkers of political sciences believe that changes that will come in culture from such an approach will easy the rush toward the “good life” as imagined from a centre of cultural distribution. This might easy the facing of economic and environmental threats to the planet and society. And on the other side a belief that no culture stands above the other is nurtured and growing participation is harvested.
In conditions of cultural democracy and variety of cultures EU might have growing possibilities for engaged cultures, professional or civic, or some other inclination that differs from ethnic, religious or moralistic cultures that harden identities that on their turn threat the EU project.
Albania will have difficulties in following this new conceptual framework in the field of culture. Albanian government is providing limited resources for culture and sees culture as part of other projects.
Channeling support to the small unit and its cultural preferences and their addressing is a challenge that EU can encourage at state level as well. In Albania the state has to assist participants in the cultural democracy as a possibility to enable the society to become part of a European entirety.
Activity means the time the effort, the resources, the willingness, the knowhow that are devoted to the objective.
To create an idea on the budget of culture in Albania, to the above mentioned is to be added another 0.12% that the sector of culture receives at the Ministry of Culture mainly in wages, transfers and properties for understanding. 0.1% of the GDP is about 13 million Euros. This is foreseen in the project budget that is to be ratified by the president thsese days. In Serbia the budget is at about 290 million Euros as 0.68% of the GDP. And is aimed to reach at about 1.68% by 2027.
http://www.mod.gov.al/images/PDF/strategji2016/SKZHI_FINAL_QBZ.pdf, pg 128. The translation is mine.