‘ The song contest is needed now more than ever ‘

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This Saturday is the final of the sixty-first Eurovision Song Contest. After the victory of the Swede Måns Zelmerlöw last year the Eurovision caravan this year settled down in the capital Stockholm. Between rehearsals, receptions and parties, was there a real Conference held this year about the contest.

From the Stockholm School of Economics was on Monday, May 9, not coincidentally, on the day of Europe, the Conference “The Eurovision Song Contest and the Changing Europe” . The Conference organizers, the Swedish public broadcaster SVT and the umbrella organization for public service broadcasting EBU, had the purpose of the contest into a wider European context. That happened on the basis of two panel discussions.

No bridges, but fences

The first panel discussion was about the impact of the Organization of the Eurovision song contest on the country and the city from which it is held. Troefden for years organizing public broadcasters to offer against each other by each other and ever increasing amounts to throw. The total cost of the Eurovision song contest from the Azerbaijani capital Baku is estimated at 60 million euros. Since then the belt tightened: the SVT operates this year with a modest budget of some twelve million euros.

Andreas Annerfors, professor at the University of Gothenburg, told about the big differences when the Swedish Malmö organized the contest three years ago and now: ‘ the city lived for two weeks in a fairy tale, but now seems to have become a dystopian country . The border with Denmark is de facto sealed. If you come by train across the Öresund bridge from Malmo to Copenhagen wants to travel, you have to show your ID twice. And that within Schengen. It is remarkable to see how readily people who accept forms of violation of personal privacy. ‘

Last year was the host city of the Vienna festival. Marco Schreuder, a former Austrian mp, lived on two streets from the room: ‘I noticed nothing at all by the fact that the world’s largest music competition so close to my front door was held, “he said. And since then it is there in Austria and Europe not much better, according to Schreuder: ‘ the slogan of the Eurovision song contest last year was “Building Bridges”. But now we do not build bridges, but fences, to keep out refugees. ‘

The talk of the panel members was interspersed with questions from the audience, and soon degenerated the discussion in an attempt to determine what European values are, and how that the contest should be propagated or not. ‘ The song contest is a family program with different layers that do not immediately come to the surface, “said Karen Fricker, professor at the University of Ontario who also teaches and academic writes about the contest. ‘ And the broadcasts show your audience implies that at least you agree to the European values that come during programmes. ‘ Fricker refers to incidentjes in recent years, as a lesbian kiss during the Finnish number in 2013, which in some countries was cut from the broadcast.

‘ The song contest has a great symbolic value, for Europe and beyond, “said Marco Schreuder. ‘ And that’s why it is now more than ever. ‘

Thorn in the flesh

The other official theme of the Conference was called in full “Diversity and belonging in the 21st century Eurovision Song Contest”. It went especially to a long indictment against the participation of countries which are not too casual approach to ‘ European values ‘ as a press freedom and democracy. Joanna Kurosz, which for more than fifteen years is active in human rights organizations in the countries of the former Soviet Union, told about the aforementioned organisation of Baku, Azerbaijan: “four years ago was for a long time a dictatorship, but without that people noticed. The Organization of the Eurovision song contest made sure the country in the eye of the international media came, making short also more human rights organisations attention donated to the oppression that still prevails in the country. The Swedish candidate of that year, Loreen, was very committed to human rights, and was found prepared to talk to human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, as a pr stunt. When calculated Loreen Eurovision won with Euphoria, was that for the local regime a huge eyesore. ‘

The conversation took on a very different theme that indirectly with diversity: whether the Eurovision contest is now a politically motivated or not. Participants may officially No brand names and political messages in their songs packaging, but in practice that settled between the lines. As Georgia pulled back in 2009 after a song with the few subtle title We Don’t Wanna Put In was banned by the EBU. ‘ Come Together with our slogan we want to involve everyone at the Eurovision song contest, including migrants ‘, told Hanna Stjärne, CEO of the SVT. ‘ Our intention is to the European viewers to show that it’s not going to have a grey mass of people moving, but also a lot of diversity within it. That we are going to show in performances between the participating songs. ‘

The conclusion on this theme came from Olaf Lavessen, a former member of the Council of Europe: ‘ There regularly with heated discussions took place between representatives of Ukraine and Russia, but during the breaks they talk about each other’s Eurovision songs, ‘ he knows. ‘ The song contest is always been politics – it was founded as a reason for Europeans closer together – and should remain. ‘