Eurovision Rejects Zelensky Speech Request, Insisting Song Contest Is ‘Non-Political’

Eurovision Queens perform during a break in the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song c
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It would not be appropriate for the Ukrainian President to make an address on the Eurovision Song Contest final because the programme is apolitical, organisers have said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskly wanted to address the hundreds of millions of people worldwide expected to watch the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, but has been blocked from doing so by the European Broadcast Union (EBU).

The appearance may have been intended to be like Zelensky’s video appearance at the 2022 Grammy Awards and the 2023 Berlin Film Festival and U.S. Golden Globes ceremony, where he asked for support and asked cultural figures to take a side in the conflict.

The EBU said in a statement after the request by the Ukrainian government to try and use the event to whip up support for their opposition to Russia’s invasion that: “The Eurovision Song Contest is an international entertainment show, and governed by strict rules and principles which have been established since its creation. As part of these, one of the cornerstones of the Contest is the non-political nature of the event.”

Ukraine won the Eurovision song contest in 2022, and by the conventions of the annual show, should be hosting this year. Given the realities of the ongoing war, the contest is being hosted by the United Kingdom — one of Ukraine’s closest allies — on their behalf instead. The EBU said “Ukraine, its music, its culture, and its creativity would feature strongly” in the event and short films broadcast during the competition would highlight Ukrainian geography.

The EBU continued: “The request by Mr Zelensky to address the audience at the Eurovision Song Contest, whilst made with laudable intentions, regrettably cannot be granted by the European Broadcasting Union management as it would be against the rules of the event. ”

While the strict ruling from the EBU may seem strange, it goes back to the founding of the body after the Second World War and the aspirations of what may otherwise seem like a cheesy pop-song television programme. While the EBU has been mistaken for being a part of the European Union in the past, it predates the creation of the EU by decades, is non-political, and counts as member countries from around the world including Israel, the Kingdom of Jordan, and Egypt.

Russia and Belarus are not members of the EBU, however, having been suspended from the body and Eurovision in 2022. The EBU said that allowing Russia to compete would “bring the competition into disrepute”.

The decision by the EBU is a rare rejection for Zelensky, who has made countless addresses since Russia’s invasion, during which he has given both updates on the progress of the war as well as made pleas for material support. The President made a historic speech to Congress in the U.S. when he said that the weapons given so far were not enough, and when addressing Britain’s Parliament thanked the country “in advance” for the donation of warplanes, which he said he was sure to receive.

Eurovision’s rejection on apolitical grounds is not the first time the entertainment industry has not given Zelensky airtime, however. Breitbart reported in March when the U.S. Academy Awards rejected Ukraine’s request for him to be featured during the ceremony, which was perceived as a snub at the time.


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