Show is the model Euro-vision to make the Union’s heart sing

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.20, 17.5.01, p6
Publication Date 17/05/2001
Content Type

Date: 17/05/01

Memo to future lexicographers: avoid words with a 'Euro' prefix, because they rarely spell instant success.

The Eurotunnel group managed to bring France and Britain together but is yet to see light at the end of the Chunnel financially; the Eurofighter has been painfully slow getting airborne and Euro Disney's early bosses looked like they had been trained in the Donald Duck school of management.

But there is one exception to this rule - and I am not talking about the accident-prone single currency.

A clue: it has been around for longer than the EEC, it is watched by as many people who bothered to vote in the last Euro elections and it arouses more passions than even the most controversial EU directive.

I'm talking about the Eurovision Song Contest, that annual festival of schmaltz, kitsch and sequinned leotards that took place in a 40,000-seater stadium in Copenhagen last Saturday.

Jean Monnet once said that if he started the EU project all over again he would begin with culture, not economics.

The Union's founding father might not have had the song contest in mind when he said this, but compatriot Marcel Baison certainly thought of his pet project as a way of uniting the war-torn countries of Europe when he started in 1956.

Comparisons between the ESC (that's song contest not economic and social committee) and the Union might seem far-fetched, but in many ways the annual songfest is a kind of mini-EU with all the boring bits taken out.

It is also something of a model for how the 15-member bloc might work in the future.

It includes all European countries, not just the rich ones in the West; it uses one main language - English - for its communication and decision-making procedures are so simple and democratic that they should have been grafted wholesale onto the Nice Treaty.

All members have the same voting strength, decisions are only made after consulting with the public and, most importantly, there are no vetoes.

This is not to deny that the Eurovision song contest faces problems, but these are not so different from those encountered by the EU.

The growth in the number of countries competing has meant that there is not time to hear everyone's song on the big night - a problem foreign ministers are familiar with from enlarged general affairs councils.

The festival also has the same difficulties with its hosts as the EU does with its presidencies.

Some are able to separate national pride from the interests of the whole, while others view their stint at the helm as little more than a chance to show off their country's wares.

Another thorny issue is which states should be allowed to compete in the competition.

The EU treaty says that only European countries can join its club, but Eurovision's organisers' take a more relaxed view and have no qualms about inviting Russia, Turkey and even Israel along to the annual singsong.

In the past, some MEPs have suggested that one way to solve Israel's irridenta would be to invite it to join the EU.

This is fraught with difficulties, but at least it would open up the door for two former winners - Israeli transsexual Dana International and Irish Catholic Conservative Dana - to sit next to each other in the hallowed hemicycle.

  • Many readers have asked why we chose to illustrate this column about the EU with a sculpture of a lady astride a bull.

Well, students of Greek mythology will know that before Europe the continent was Europa, the world famous run-away.

Legend has it that while spending time by the Phoenician coast, the daughter of King Agenor of Tyre and Telephassa took a shine to Zeus, who was disguised as a white bull.

With the subtlety of a Greek waiter on the pull, the god then changed himself into an eagle - as you do - sped off with Europa and fathered three sons by her.

My trusty encyclopaedia says that the princess' three brothers "looked and looked for Europa before consulting an oracle, which told them to give up the search".

Hardly the sort of advice the European Commission needs as it promotes the future of Europe debate through its website, which also happens to be called 'Europa'.

Gareth Harding

Lighthearted feature bringing out the parallels between the EU and the Eurovision Song Contest.

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