Pécs - European Capital of Culture 2010

A Borderless City in Question

Term Paper, 2011

29 Pages, Grade: 1,3



The “European Capital of Culture” (ECoC) is an annual competition held by the European Commission. Cities who hold the title receive funding worth millions of Euros. During their ECoC year the cities may organize cultural events, encourage exchange projects, renovate whole city quarters, and more. One major aim for this program is to bring the citizens of the EU closer together and to encourage mutual understanding between different cultures. The focus of attention of this work is intercultural management in general and how it is also an aspect of the EU. Furthermore, the creation of a cultural identity within the European Union is discussed. Most important however, is the discussion of the case study of the Hungarian city Pécs. Pécs held the ECoC title in 2010 and it can be argued that intercultural management failed here. Consequently, the experienced reality in contrast to the official picture in the application and promotion material also gives rise to the opinion that the principles for the nomination as ECoC were not fulfilled in the end.

1. Introduction

Pécs the “Borderless City”, this was the motive for the fifth largest Hungarian city in 2010. During that year Pécs held the title “European Capital of Culture” (ECoC), next to Istanbul and Essen. The ECoC is a project of the European Union and is part of the European cultural policy. Purpose of the project is to bring the citizens of the EU closer together, to foster mutual intercultural communication and understanding, to encourage regional development and stimulate tourism. The focus of the ECoC event should be on cultural artistic projects, but can also include investments for example in urban development projects.

Pécs’ successfully won the title as “European Capital of Culture” with its project “Borderless City”. With the program it explicitly pointed to its multiethnic community, to its population, where “different cultures were layered on each other, [where] traditions [and] values of nationalities were merging through the history of 2000 years. Hungarians, Croatians, Germans are living together in rich cultural polarity” (Pécs 2010 European Capital of Culture, 2010a). On the official promotion material for the ECoC event is noted that the program for the project “was mainly written by civilians, so the project Pécs2010 ‘European Capital of Culture’ is truly a programme of the city” (idem). Furthermore the nomination of the UNESCO-Prize 'Cities for Piece' is underlined. Pécs won the title in 1998 “for cherishing different cultures and for its tolerant attitudes towards the fugitives of the Balkan Wars” (idem between 75,000 to 200,000 people.

The promise for and special focus on the intercultural dialogue on the regional level within the city, but also on international and European in the application were crucial for Pécs to win the title. Therefore it is reasonable to ask what stake the minorities and various ethnic groups have during the actual implementation of the project. Are they included in the decision making process? Consequently, the main research question and special interest for the present work is on how intercultural management works in the European Capital of Culture 2010? How does Pécs stick to its promise to be a “Borderless City”? When taking a closer look at the official application and promotion material for the event and when comparing it with statements of representatives of some of the ethnic minorities, one can s discern a glaring discrepancy between the official coverage of the ECoC organizers and experienced reality of a majority of the local population. In this work the motto of the “Borderless City” is questioned on the basis of intercultural management and on the basis of equal involvement of the various cultural groups, as it was promised in the promotion material. In doing so the first part of this work will give a short overview and explanation of what intercultural management is. Secondly, the connection between intercultural management and European cultural policy is explicated. It shows how important the concept of culture is within the European Union and how the Member States gradually recognized that economic and legal integration only, would not generate a united Europe. Without a unified Europe popular consensus for acceptance of further financial integration would not be possible. Culture is connected to economics and consequently the discourse of intercultural management is linked to the European Union. Thus, it is reasonable to look at the “European Capital of Culture” program, as one aspect of the European Cultural Policy more closely with respect to intercultural management. So, the fourth part will deal with the program of the ECoC itself, for example the nomination procedure is explained and what requirements should be fulfilled in order to win the title.

This is important so that an evaluation of the official promotion material and the perceived reality it possible. Consequently, the fifth part gives a short overview of the promises that were made by Pécs and theses are analyzed and in the sixth part. Finally, the findings are summarized in the conclusion.

2. Intercultural Management

Intercultural management is a very young research area. The enhanced interest in this topic is a result of unequivocal developments within the world of business. These are explicitly the increased internationalization of working situations, business communication and relationships – in short: globalization. The term contains intricate processes such as global flows of finance, knowledge and people. Especially the increased pace of interconnectedness between nations and people are responsible for an enhanced frequency and intensity of intercultural interactions. Intercultural contacts are present for example, when companies have business relationships in a different country, or decide to outsource parts of their company in a different country, or also when teams are encompassed by people from different cultures.

Therefore, intercultural encounters do not only occur between companies from different countries / cultures but may as well come about within companies and working organizations. This development has the effect that, more and more organizational decision makers, academics and others who have a stake in business progressively try to get a grasp on how culture intercedes at the workplace, politics and the world of business (French, 2010).

But why should it be of interest to understand what role culture or diversity in general plays at for example the workplace – aside from the increasing pressure of globalization? When thinking in Surowieckian (2004) terms a team is more efficient than the action of an individual. A team is more efficient to solve a problem, because it can make use of the knowledge shared by all team members. Each team member has a certain stock of knowledge and wisdom based on factors such as nationality, education, family background, gender etc. Consequently, the more diverse a group is, the more efficient it may be to solve problems. This is because it can make use of the so called “wisdom of crowds” (Surowiecki, 2004). In short Surowiecki may say that success is linked to diversity. So the more diverseand consequently also more intercultural a team gets the more potential it holds for achieving success. However, it is important to keep Surowiecki’s warning in mind, that successful achievement in multicultural teams is not guaranteed! It is only possible, if the diversity of the team is well managed. Hence, it is very important for people management and management in general to understand the composition of a team.

Yet, how is culture defined? First of all it is important to mention that there is no encompassing definition for culture. There is no existence of the definition of culture. However, it is important to mention some of the aspects in order to get a grasp of the ideas corresponding to culture and cross-cultural management. An important question to ask, when dealing with the concept of culture is: How does a certain group of people make sense of its world, how does this group construct reality for itself and in relation to other groups of people? Almost nothing that we understand as ‘natural’, ‘obvious’, ‘real’, ‘self-evident’, ‘for granted’ in our daily-life is just given. Erll & Gymnich (2010) note that religious beliefs, the understanding of common sense, forms of use, politeness, concepts of time and space, norms and values are all culturally constructed and therefore may be completely different in another culture. Maletzke (1996) defines culture as a system of concepts, beliefs, attitudes, value orientation which becomes obvious in people’s actions and their mental and material products. So culture is the humans’ way of living; what they do with themselves and their world.

But how does such a system come about? According to a (2003) culture is based on the development of habits inside of groups. He describes the development of habits as a standardization process that counts within collectives: “Kultur umfasst Standardisierungen, die in Kollektiven gelten“ (p. 39). Within this standardization process he discerns four different categories: thinking, sensation, communication and behavior. For Hansen (2003) the standardization of thinking takes place in our every day actions. It is part of our interpretation of reality, our judgments and opinions. These aspects are especially noticeable in maxims and proverbs. Questions such as, how emotions and feelings are interpreted in a certain culture, what kind of actions cause for example empathy or anger and how they are expressed in the bodily behavior are connected to the standardization of sensation. The third topic is communication. Everywhere in the world there exist standardized codes of communication, either non-verbal or verbal. For example in Germany people usually understand nodding as acknowledgement and affirmation, but in Greece for example it is understood as negation. Lastly, the ostensible habit of almost automatically shaking hands when meeting with another person could be an example for the standardization of behavior. Yet in other cultural communities shaking hands could be totally unusually and maybe even offensive. So as habits develop and become standardized, cultural codes are formed. Consequently, a consensus is formed about how the specific symbols and codes are supposed to be used and read.

However, in science or intercultural management there exists another famous definition of culture by Hofstede (2001, p. 9): “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another”. According to this definition of culture, the “collective programming” takes place through socialization – the developments by which a society passes on values from one generation to another. Coinstantaneously, Hofstede (2001) identifies individual programming, which characterizes individual abilities and personality. He is one of the most influential scholars in the field of cultural studies and intercultural communication and contributed a great deal to the research of culture within the world of business and points out that culture is only one aspect of difference, yet a very important source of difference.

The field of intercultural management is a very young science. Until the boost of globalization and with it the increased intercultural nature of today’s business mainly anthropologists engaged in this research area. However, with the increased amplified speed of information and augmented interconnectedness of people all over the world, this academic discipline has found a steep rise of interest in the world of business. Today managers need to be aware of the presence of culture, since it may be a constraint on management business, as well.

Since the beginning of this field of research within the world of business one can define for example one mainstream discourse, which is called the etic approach (French, 2010)[1]. This approach tries to discern certain general characteristics of and then analyzes countries along these measurements. However, it is questioned whether this approach really justifies the variety and diversity of culture. French (2010, p. 48) notes: “A key point is that differences are relative than absolute [italics in original]. So the UK is more individualistic than China but one cannot categorise it as individualistic per se: it is only individualistic in comparison with China [...].” Vis-à-vis to the etic approach stands another approach - the emic approach. Briefly summarized, it questions the comparative perspective on culture, which is a characteristic for the etic discourse in intercultural management. As mentioned earlier, the etic view endeavours to locate significant intercultural evaluations and to categorize clusters of similar societies. Even though the alternative emic approach exists, the comparative analysis forms the mainstream research effort in this area and is habitually applied to business and management. Therefore it is essential to be on familiar terms with the emic perspective. It stresses the unique essence of individual cultures. Along with this view Koen (2005) accentuates:

“the need to understand social systems from the inside and through the definition of its members. [...] [The emic approach] attempts to analyse the internal coherence of single examples and condemns any attempt at classification across cultures as denying the uniqueness of each culture” (p. 55).

Another important aspect when dealing with intercultural communication in the workplace is the existence of ethnocentrism or ethnocentricity. Most people take their own culture as benchmark. Yet, Samovar & Porter (1976) note, that no one is really immune to this process and therefore it is important to mention this topic. It is an unconscious process to see other cultures from the viewpoint of one’s own culture and to make one’s own as point of reference for all customs and norms. We are placing our own ethnic, social and cultural group as the centre of the universe from which we classify and categorize others. The more akin they are to us, the closer we classify them towards us; the more foreign they are to us, the more afar we locate them (idem). Ethnocentrism is characterized by two important components. On the one hand, it is marked by taking most things for granted and on the other hand, often linked to a feeling of superiority towards others (Maletzke, 1996).

Even if people describe themselves as very intercultural, working in cross-cultural environments and might attribute themselves a good intercultural competence, they are still prone to a small degree of ethnocentrism. Hitherto, if one is aware of that fact, then one is able to observe oneself and one’s actions. It is central to keep in mind that one has to be tolerant for ambiguity, flexible and open-minded. But where is the connection to management and the world of business one might ask? Schneider & Barsoux (2003) summarize it very well:

“Given the dramatic changes in the ways of doing business, the economic and political upheavals, and the greater interdependencies called for in doing business across borders, there is the never-ending search for a ‘new’ model of management. [...] We need to recognize that these underlying and often hidden, cultural assumptions give rise to different beliefs and values about the practice of management. These assumptions are also manifest in the behavior of managers and employees, as well as in our everyday working environment, from the design of the buildings we enter, the interior office, to the very design of job descriptions, policies and procedures, structures and strategies. We need to realize that these values and beliefs, behaviors and practices have different meanings, making them [only] more or less acceptable in different cultures” (p. xi-xii).

The concept of culture is not only important for the world of business, it is also important for private sector management. Likewise cultural diversity and intercultural management also have an impact on public affairs. Leitner (2000) argues that the work of people employed in political and administrative institutions is very much influenced by their national cultural background. Its influence may even be higher in public organizations than in the private sector. Moreover Leitner (2000) claims that

“the loss in potential effectiveness sustained by the [European] Union and its Member States in the course of their political and administrative dealings with each other because of cultural barriers are likely to even exceed those observed in the commercial sector. While it is difficult to quantify these effects in the same way, it is clear that cultural issues influence practically all of the major topics that European policies aim to address today. [...] The areas at the European level where such cultural differences can have a substantial influence are numerous: on policy implementations, negotiations, communications, these sharing of information, and the relationship with the citizen” (p. 21).

Because of these reasons and connections between culture, business, administration and public affairs, the topic of intercultural communication is also very interesting in respect to the program of the “European Capital of Culture” of the European Commission. The next part of this work deals with the links of cultural identity and cultural policy within the European Union. It is important to get a grasp on these topics in order to be able to evaluate the program of the “European Capital of Culture”.


[1] [e.g. House, R., Hanges, P., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P., W. and Gupta, V. (2004). Culture, Leadership and Organisations: The Globe study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks: Sage.; Hofstede, G. & Bond, M. (1988). The Confucius connection: from cultural roots to economic growth. Organisational Dynamics, Spring: 5-21.]

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Pécs - European Capital of Culture 2010
A Borderless City in Question
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)  (Fakultät für Kulturwissenschaften)
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ISBN (Book)
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pécs, european, capital, culture, borderless, city, question
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Master of Arts Julia Klar (Author), 2011, Pécs - European Capital of Culture 2010, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/200168


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