Public culture administration changes without consultation.
4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities
The main activity in 2012 was the personnel changes at top of the governance hierarchy. In April Zoltán Balog took over the office of Minister of Human Resources from Zoltán Réthelyi, and László L. Simon replaced Géza Szőcs as State Secretary in charge of culture. From the beginning of the year, Mr. L. Simon has been leading the National Cultural Fund, too.
The efforts of the government to fight public debts require reductions in public funding, which is currently the central cultural policy issue. The annual budgets had to be adjusted repeatedly in the course of the past few years. Nevertheless, the state secretariat for culture has come forward with the ambitious initiative to erect a new museum quarter (see chapter 4.2.4).
The fundamental restructuring that is taking place in a number of areas is the centre of attention. In the absence of a detailed strategy plan, major changes occur in piecemeal steps, and are far from being considered settled for the next several years. For more, see policy and legislation chapters on film, performing arts, heritage, media and digitisation.
A major issue in public culture continues to be the financial investments from the European Structural Funds in the national framework programme for 2007-2013, called originally the New Hungary Development Plan, renamed later the New Széchenyi Plan. The Plan, in conformity with the European Union's policy, contains no separate culture chapter or dedicated cultural targets. Nevertheless, under the umbrellas of education, tourism or urban development, a significant amount of cultural investment is being financed from these funds, to an extent that has not been possible in the past 20-30 years from Human Resources. (The figures in the next several paragraphs are in million EUR, the exact value depending on the actual EUR / HUF exchange rates. They show the amount of EU assistance, to which in most cases a 5-15% own share is added from central or local government budgets. Source of figures: http://www.nfu.hu, the website of the National Development Agency.)
The biggest single investment of about 35 million EUR serves the reconstruction of the Franz Liszt University of Music, affecting several sites including the Art Nouveau main building that houses Budapest's traditional favourite concert hall (renovation started in August 2011, see also chapter 8.3.1).
The largest amount nevertheless went to Pécs, European Capital of Culture in 2010. Over 32 million EUR have transformed the Zsolnay ceramics factory site into a cultural quarter. Building a new conference and concert centre absorbed nearly 20 million EUR, and a new regional library received 17 million EUR. Nearly 25 million EUR were spent on the revival of public spaces and parks in Pécs, and the reconstruction of exhibition infrastructure cost 5.5 million EUR.
In the framework of a nation-wide project, nearly 60 million EUR fund the construction of complex community cultural centres (so called Agoras) in nine cities. Another 33 million EUR is allocated for five or six Polus Agoras, to be built in conjunction with universities, aimed at creating spaces of interaction between research, development, teaching and the general public, especially youth.
Decisions have been made on nine more individual development projects receiving over 1 million EUR each, on the reconstruction or extension to cultural objects, ranging from the smallest for the youth cultural centre A38 Ship on the Danube in Budapest (to extend it with a second vessel), to the largest with 12 million EUR for the Szépművészeti Múzeum – Museum of Fine Arts. This latter, however, was removed from the programme in 2010, and the erection of a new museum-quarter is targeted instead for 2017.
In addition to these initiatives supported from the European Regional Development Fund, the resources of the European Social Fund were also used for cultural projects on a scale that stands out among EU members. ESF money has served the integrated development of cultural sub-sectors, which is another Hungarian feature: a number of calls resulted in supports to hundreds of minor investment or training projects in the fields of local community culture (altogether about 32 million EUR), libraries (30 million EUR) and museums (9.7 million EUR for museum education). Cultural projects of smaller settlements have been supported from a third major channel of the European Union: from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), see chapter 8.4.2.