Thursday 16 May 2013

Nation building through Eurovision

The second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest takes place today. For some countries the results tonight are incredibly important. One example is Georgia, a country keen to promote itself on the world stage. Part of the process of constructing “the nation” involves establishing the state within the wider geopolitical context. For a small country participation in events like the Eurovision Song Contest offer an opportunity to do exactly this.

Earlier this week I attended a reception with the Georgian Ambassador here in Sweden who spoke about the importance of events such as Eurovision for promoting the country. This wasn’t the usual affair with free wine, food and banal chat. This was a Georgian cultural afternoon where the Ambassador presented for 20 minutes about Georgia and the importance to them of European integration. For years the Estonian government have been advising the Georgians on reform and it is clear from speaking to them that this is a country which is hungry for recognition as a full and equal European partner.

What’s this got to do with Eurovision though? Well smaller, lesser known countries have few opportunities to punch above their weight. As the Irish showed in the 1990s, Eurovision gives host countries the chance to say something to the world and on their own terms. The publicity gained from winning and staging the contest could not be bought. What’s interesting is that with Georgia, it is mere participation in this event which is important to them. It’s not just smaller, lesser known countries which use Eurovision as a promotional opportunity. Some use it as an exercise in public diplomacy. Greece, on its knees financially and yet still continues to participate in Eurovision. Failure to take part would effectively present an image of the country as a poor relative of the EBU. Last night the Greeks performed their song at the Euro CafĂ© here in Malmö. Before doing so they performed the Turkish entry from 2004 before announcing “Turkey should be here in Eurovision”. This is hugely significant and a reflection of the progress the Greeks and Turks have made in terms of their relationship. Eurovision offers an opportunity to further international relations and I think this is what makes it just that little bit more than a TV show.

Good luck to all the participants tonight!

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