Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Implementation process - Culture and Horizon 2020


The EU 2020 vision has been expressed by the European Commission, in order to realize by various means smart, inclusive and sustainable development. As such it places investment priorities under a new regulatory framework. This includes as well making use of the structural fund in a certain way. All the more significant is that the EU 2020 vision does not mention culture at all.

In search of further going policy recommendations and critical appraisal of the proposed vision

While the vision 2020 promises a long term horizon which can make people become creative while thinking ahead and about their future, the fact that planning in relation to the economy and environment within the concrete setting of cities and regions is not well organized or even almost non existent (not only in Greece but whenever land use policy is overturned by wild land speculation and exceptional permissions granted to novel investment schemes promising jobs and return of money, but in reality just more consumption of space and resources), it is difficult to imagine how a viable solution for the EU economy as a whole shall be found. As a matter of fact, it is even highly doubtful if an adequate response to particular problems besetting the various sub-economic systems shall be given. This is because payment schemes do not necessarily coincide with production capacities while the organisational strategies have to shift all the time to make room for political alterations. So far the political governance has not matched the demand for economic governance within the EU.

Horizon 2020: actions up- and downstream

Under the heading 'Complementarity and coordination' of the Commission Staff Working Document, it is stated that:
"It is crucial to strengthen synergies and complementarities between Cohesion Policy and Horizon 2020, while establishing a clear division of labour between them. This can help in increasing the value added of R&I European policies, further exploit the European dimension in the European Research Area in particular, and at the same time avoid duplication and fragmentation of effort at national and regional level. In order to strengthen these synergies in practice, it is essential that the smart specialisation strategies be elaborated by national and/or regional managing authorities for Cohesion Policy funds in close collaboration with the authorities responsible for research and innovation most directly concerned by Horizon 2020 and involving stakeholders such as universities and higher education institutions, local industry and social partners. The Smart Specialisation Platform established by the Commission should be used to support the development of these strategies. These strategies should consider both upstream and downstream actions to and from Horizon 2020 financed by the CSF Funds. As set out above, both sets of options, upstream and downstream, are considered as key actions under the current Community Strategic Framework."


Source: COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT. Elements for a Common Strategic Framework 2014 to 2020. Brussels, 14.3.2012 SWD(2012) 61 final, p. 5-6

It is interesting to see how the EU Commission tries to bring about an ever more efficient implementation process linked to the EU 2020 vision. For instance, reference is made to Horizon 2020 to indicate actions shall be undertaken further up stream as well as down stream. Here the European Commission is attempting to demonstrate a far reaching competence and thereby claims to be able to influence development, but going up- or downstream to suggest actions are not restricted to just what exists 'here and now' is a kind of lucid metaphor which says everything and nothing at all. It can evoke a possible association with nature due to environmental concerns and remind as well of events like the Arabic Spring. The latter made possible a flow of ideas going together with a flow of people since 2011 but it is doubtful if that was in mind when this formulation was incorporated into the official text.

Democratic governance: bottom up processes and participation in setting the agenda

It is inconceivable that the EU will really respond in a good way to any challenge wishing to go further than any criticism accepted by the current decision making process. Not only does the latter favor heavily a top down only process, and this is said despite all efforts to open up the process to public consultations and other 'formal' tricks to ensure some sort of public legitimacy. This includes the structured dialogue with Civil Society as has been the aim when creating the three Platforms (Access to Culture, Cultural and Creative Industries, Intercultural Europe). For the verdict remains basically the same, namely that very rarely do people outside the process get the impression of good discussions taking place. This would be only the case if others really listen to what is being really said and appraisals would be done in a language understandable for outsiders as well.

Clearly the top down process needs to be complemented by a bottom-up process especially when it comes to setting priorities and thereby formulating the points to be put on the agenda of the forthcoming meetings. At the same time, both processes need support, monitoring and even more importantly references to validated information by independent bodies bringing together social competence of communication, management of information, research and learning out of experience. CORDIS is an official source of information but does not monitor this process. Also research linked to universities is too exclusive so that normal citizens cannot really follow either the model building or the intricate logics behind proposals being discussed and revised prior to becoming official documents on which the European Commission bases its proposal to both Council and European Parliament. Various attempts have been made in this direction to correct some of the mistakes having been made right from the beginning when EU norms for all staff members working for the Commission were formulated and only partially reformed in due course after Santer had to leave and Prodi took over in 2009.

How far this process of internal reform has gone, only insiders know but the gap between EU institutions and citizens has remained the biggest challenge so far when it comes to democratic legitimacy. Since that criticism is invoked all the time, and it extends to use of language (the Eurospeak often a simplified version of what has gone astray), there needs to be a mediation between these two extreme positions. The Eurocats deal internally with the logics of a codified system of knowledge, behaviour, mechanisms etc. all akin to how these institutions work, and given the vast extension of membership, there is conflict brewing around every possible twist and corner. Out of this develops an artificial layer of sensitivity without ever so much being reflected as a way of becoming insensitive to the very important things which matter to ordinary people who are not socialized nor dependent upon such a sensitive process about allocation of resources. Externally, shrill voices can over do it and deny everything being done as just useless, a mere waste of public money. And that holds not only for Euro-Sceptics as they are called but for quite a lot of people who have become increasingly so disenchanted with the European project.

There is a responsibility on both sides, insiders as much as outsiders could alter tone and seek other structures to bring about a fruitful dialogue. However, it must be said that the insiders have a definite advantage and that is their huge salaries and other resources which the European institutions can make available. Also many who work with full dedication for Europe within these institutions are really open minded, highly intelligent and capable of perceiving issues and problems within the various programmes. Insofar as this awareness exists as to where things stick or do not go so smoothly as many would like, that can be addressed especially if a polite, indeed learned way is adopted. That means there is signalled as well that not everything is known and by giving a benefit to doubt indicate a willingness to learn by gathering in more information. Thus the frank tone by which some critical citizens or even anti European politicians take on, will simply not do. Or even if they manage to unearth some of the scandals and catch the supposing thieves they assume to be working on the inside, they do not manage in the end to get very far and therefore resign in the end, because somewhere along the line the learning has stopped. In either case protest or critical questions are smoothered immediately. That means criticism risks a similar fate to a bird which flies against the glass of the European Parliament and suffers the consequences of not seeing that this 'fake' transparency spells in fact immediate danger.

Thus to think about democratic governance from below in a time of crisis seems highly impossible. The crisis furthers not only more technocratic and single decision making forms, but also anti democratic movements e.g. Chrysi Avgi in Greece. Most of all extreme reactions stem out of an anti-political stance. They endanger the cultural consensus which uphold until now the Parliamentary form of governance. Especially during this recent crisis the European Union is going through the main loser has been the European Parliament. By the end of 2012 more power than ever before is transferred to the European Central Bank as governance seems to require formally and institutionally only monetary policy and tools. The key aim of this approach to economic reality with the budget having the loudest voice (Schumpeter) is to ensure the purchasing power of the EURO, or in the case of the non Euro-zone EU members of the respective national currency e.g. in the UK the Pound, is maintained. Wages and pensions are cut to ease the burden on the state while banks are helped to overcome their limited credit giving possibilities due to having given out in the recent past too many risky loans. As if the psychology of the economy is the sole dictate, namely to avoid a default and therefore a crisis in the banking system, it matters that public debates and the voices of the people in the streets is not heard.

When in Greece assemblies started to be held on Syntagma square, then it followed models elsewhere e.g. first in Cairo, Egypt, and then in Spain. Of interest was the set up of a complex self organisation to cover various needs e.g. press work, translation, gathering more information about the economic crisis etc. Important is not to misinterpret their motives. For these movements made up of a diversity of people and groups do not seek to be so much an opposition to the governing process as they feel that they have no real voice in what is being decided. In Greece most of the protest was directed against the 'Memorandum of Understanding' signed by politicians and technocrats, but with clear dictates by such institutions as the World Bank, the EU Central Bank and the Council of Ministers. Thus the people perceive themselves as being outsiders to the system. Even school teachers will deem themselves not to have a voice in how the curriculum for their schools has been shaped. An alternate praxis would be already given if these assembles would be supported as shaping public debates with people wishing to be informed, in order to understand themselves the complexity of the crisis and the reasons behind it.

Any political attempt to undermine this collective effort will result in a further de-legitimization of the political system. Once the assembly on Syntagma Square was squashed end of June 2011, this public ventil was closed off and resulted not only in a fragmentation of the political parties, but more so in the rise of extreme movements wishing to take the law into their own hands to pursue their own specific agenda e.g. Chyrsi Avgi members chasing migrants and even hurting them physically to the point of making violence and threat thereof into a terrorist like mode of intimitation.

At the same time, many more seem to turn their back on the European Union by becoming much more nationalistic in their orientation. The national interest predominates consequently in many discussions about possible solutions e.g. return to own currency as if then free to safeguard own balance of payment situation by devaluating the national currency.

Consequently many local and regional actors perceive that the EU reinforces merely the national model and therefore consider it to be a backward model not compatible with real needs for Europe to be together in a global world. The European dimension has never been articulated sufficently as a viable model which enables all to live, work and come together in a global world.

Since the people engaged in such a bottom up process understand themselves not as a fundamental opposition within the overall system,  but rather question the entire system out of a perspective of being at a loss when it comes to the question of governance, they seek to be recognized as a serious complementarity to what EU policy and national politics amounts to, namely a top down regulatory process. Hence they are a part of a 'bottom-up' process while seeking through community based actions to further inclusive forms of decision making processes. This has implications even for land use and planning regulations as such projects as urban agriculture take hold.

Independent from that thought has to be given as to how to give shape to overlapping administrations and this in view of many reforms having been attempted as of late especially at the level of local and regional administration.

At the core of many disputes is people seeking freedom from hierarchical and formal organizational principles as they are perceived as promoting merely more inequalities and false claims of authority when in fact these instances replace substantial competences.

Moreover the overall complexity of regulations and legislations proves to be so confusing, that they prefer to stay silent rather than offer any constructive comment on how the process could be improved.

However, they also see in the absence of an economy of governance due to a flood of regulations a system in which political actors and share holders of mutual interest can use public funds for private gains. That they do not abide to any transparent rules is justified by a general excuse that there exists no clarity. In the absence of a clear knowledge about any straight forward commitment to regulation, the EU Commission responds with a double strategy. On the one hand, it strives towards simplification and integration of different strands of actions, while at the same time multiple levels are introduced to coordinate and to implement the program. Creativity is only to be noticed when it comes to introduce ever more requirements of interim and yearly reports as part of an ever more complicated auditing process.

The formal implementation process

The formal implementation process for the new funding period 2014-2020 is subject to political mediation between the European Commission and the Member States with neither side wishing to be exposed and provoked by missteps with consequences that the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament will not release the funds. That avoidance tactic sidelines too many issues in need to be resolved rather than be swept under the carpet only to demonstrate agreement. It leaves the entire process exposed to mistrust.

In turn, it leads to inventing ever new internal control mechanisms with the language being discreet in terms of the Commission making 'observations' to which member states have to respond within a set time limit with comments as to which measures shall be taken to correct what has been observed. Since much is left unsaid and not done in due process because the time for working out these contradictions or rather policy incompatabilities is not adequate enough, the entire process ends up being literally un-managable.

Once the implementation of a new funding programme is not anymore an open search for better goals and methods, the fear that things can become too complicated and therefore no longer manageable will lead to an automatic reductionism of everything. It leads to a simplification along standardised lines linked to such typical outputs as 'good practice manuals'. What is not admitted that anyone can write up such manuals independent of experiences made by the projects themselves and thus no learning process takes place as to how they were funded and to what good use of the funds was made. It requires quite a perceptive eye to capture all the shortcomings for many project managers are skilled to cover up many gaps and inadequate outcomes. Instead they learn how to provide the Commission with ample material to prove the programme and the individual projects have been highly successful. No one wants to admit failure never mind to learn out of real failures.

Indeed, if there are too many objections and disagreements, shortcomings and failures, a method to silence the criticism comes into play. The promise to deal with all kinds of disturbances is immediately followed by imposing the norm of correct 'institutional' behaviour. Disputes are sidelined as controversial discussions are not wished for. The illusion of perfect management means everything has to go smoothly and harmoniously. It is a fake agreement in which everyone participates in and therefore it amounts to a collective suppression of 'unpleasant truths'. This practice at EU level, and which is handed down, poses a serious question about the entire regulatory framework as there is no place to give notice if things are going seriously astray.

Here can be said since 1999 the European Commission has become increasingly disengaged from learning from the projects themselves and instead have outsourced the program implementation with ever more institutional arrangements attached as if they guarantee an orderly implementation. Interreg III B CADSES had the managing authority at the Transport Ministry in Italy while the Technical Coordination was located in Dresden. On top of it every member state had its own institution when it came to oversee the co-funding at both national and regional level. Once the managing authority in Rom was found not to comply with the need to have both an internal and an external accounting system, the European Commission stopped simply the flow of funds until the mistake was corrected. That took two years. It is hard to imagine but it did mean payments at project level were delayed by the same amount of time i.e. two years. This meant in turn that an over dependency upon EU funds transformed itself into a division between those who could afford to wait till payments come and those who could not. While the former were regularly civil servants or state employees with independent sources of income, independent experts, NGOs, professional companies in need of payment within a certain time could not.

A lot of damage was created by this wildness of payment and it lead to what Louis Baeck would call a crisis in 'morality of payment'. This crisis results as well out of the fact that the European Commission has mainly the financial brake at its disposal for non compliance when it fact in many cases the substantial side of the project is what would matter more and be more interesting. At times, the Commission does attempt to alleviate the problem by sending to the probject in question an independent evaluator who supposed to be as well a kind of crisis manager, but again the argumentative task to bring back projects on track is most difficult if the entire environment has been spoiled and only cheating goes on due to a misappropriation of funds.

Since the Structural Fund is being implemented by managing authorities and project managers linked to agents such as consultancy offices and managerial experts, most of the local actors are not at all informed by this European program. And if they enter into some of the information made available online, but rarely updated in time to respond to current actions, they perceive then in the entire layout of the strategy for implementation linked to the EU 2020 vision no evidence at all of a forward looking cultural adaptation process to the needs of common people.

Once that is resolved, then there would be a kind of basis for agreement between what measures need to be taken and what is needed clearly as minimum working condition. If that can set the base line for future negotiations about how EU policy is adopted and implemented, then a key evaluation will be taken into consideration as part of an ongoing process, namely what people can understand and support in terms of how funds are allocated and resources made possible for what ends. Indicative for this being left out of consideration is that there is no mention of culture in the EU 2020 vision. This shortcoming will have serious consequences in case it cannot be corrected in time and before the implementation of the new program period 2014 – 2020 starts.

Smart specialisation

Smart specialisation strategies for regional development (growth, competitive, inclusive and cohesion) as entailed in the EU 2020 vision (specialisation of regions) are defined by the work plan of the EU. It is mainly a focus on innovation and allocating resources to key priorities

i) by having in place an innovation driven development strategy best done by emphasing on innovation to focus on the region's strength and competitive advantage.

ii) aims to harness regional diversity by avoiding uniformity and duplication in regional's investment goals.

As such it seeks to combine goal-setting (EU 2020 innovation Union) with a dynamic and entrepreneurial discovery process involving key stake holders from government, business, academia and other knowledge-creating institutions.



As a result of a very restricted consulting and mediation process, the EU 2020 vision with its emphasis upon an 'economy of experience' stands out as something alien and unknown to many actors and citizens. Quite another vision is preferred so as to ensure all deliberations and decisions taken measure up to the idea of the European project being something which is forthcoming and consistent with the needs of all citizens. They all wish to gain in social and cultural competence when it comes to take care of the environment and to preserve memories of places. Yet that aspect of cultural heritage should be reduced to just monuments or tangible things as it concerns as much 'memories of the future' as interrelationships between people being affected by health, work and development. A healthy vision for the future should not be the product of a smart terminology only made to suit the current design of products on the market, but evolve out of a living and creative process and be based on anticipation as to what lies ahead.

Since any vision involves the imagination and has to have an ethical commitment compatible with the human spirit for 'social justice', an effort has to be made by policy makers to avoid being both deceptive and illusionary at one and the same time. But precisely this risk to do just that is made evident by the claim of the EU Commission when arguing that this EU 2020 vision is realistic insofar as it can be implemented in accordance with what the vision entails. Unfortunately it is not. For instance, the target figures for what is considered to be a tolerable level of unemployed is an indicator which does not get politicians into trouble, but does not help those who are unemployed and forced to live at poverty level or even below it.

However, if taken seriously, it would mean entering an imaginary process by which the short-comings of EU institutions are just as much overcome as the regional disparities and the lack of social and economic cohesion throughout Europe. Cohesion cannot be ensured by top down processes alone. It needs the complementarity of bottom-up processes, and as stated already a mediation process between both. The failure to realize the need for such mediation is highlighted by citizens struggling to be heard.

Still, it goes without saying that the underlining goal has to be the articulation of common needs in a difficult period of time. If this consensus in an overall sense of cultural self-understanding as to what Europe is all about cannot be achieved, then the EU institutions will have even less legitimacy and the European Commission shall be without any convincing power needed to make this 'rational approach to politics' be possible. Already representatives from the European Commission speak to various audiences in only a very cold, uninspirational manner. As is the case too often when there is a crisis, not creative minds are asked for, but solely those who stick to already mapped out lines of argumentations. But by hiding behind a common terminology, there is no longer any meaningful interface between citizens and those working on the inside, and therefore not actions shall speak louder than words, than done deals which negate the need to show what difference it would have made if other solutions would have been tried out.

Consequently the EU Vision for 2020 is a presentation of a very weak, over simplified future strategy of development within Europe. It entails a complex field of interaction between European Commission, member states and their respective managing Authorities and regions along with all other shareholders, including project managers, all of which are forced to adopt this vision of smart, inclusive and sustainable development in a way that they cannot articulate anymore themselves the differences when this vision is being applied in Denmark and not in Greece.

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