Vladimir Spidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
April 24, 2007
Wise words, Vladimir, and I'm sure the other Vladimir would agree, after Russia stormed home with a creditable second place in the latest Eurovision song contest.
Thankfully the plucky Swedes came first, saving the competitors from the European Union being totally humiliated and facing the unpalatable prospect of receiving gold-edged invitations from President Putin to join him in Moscow next year as host of Eurovision 2016.
Because that's how it works in Eurovision: whichever country wins, everyone goes back to their place for the next bash, , unlike in Eurounion, where the big ticket events are all in Brussels, with no razamatazz, regardless of who wins its comparatively grim, grey political contests.
So isn't it time to acknowledge that Eurovision is where the action is? Isn't it time for the EU, struggling desperately for an enthusiastic audience, or any kind of audience, to throw in its lot with its long-time rival?
Because they've always been rivals, at heart: Eurovision and what we now call the European Union were both French ideas, both hatched separately at about the same time in the 1950s with the same post-war mission to restore peace and harmony.
Since then one has been routinely ridiculed and derided as frivolous and corny, while the other has delighted us with foot-tapping tunes from the likes of Abba, Celine Dion, and Dana.
And after 60 or more years of both, it's now very clear that the future lies in light entertainment, not heavy politics.
Last year, of course, Eurovision produced its most sensational winner ever in the remarkable form of Conchita Wurst, who gave new meaning to gender balance, creating envy among men for his fine beard and envy among women for her fabulous dress.
He and she appealed to everyone, including eurosceptics, because his and her name embraces the three favourite words used to attacking the EU - "con", "cheater" and "worst".
Meanwhile, the EU delivered unto us Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz, a team which appealed
to few, and certainly not to eurosceptics. In the intervening twelve months Conchita has gone on to gain global recognition on a scale even an EU leader doing the can-can in a tu-tu couldn't match.
So I put it to you that a merger of these two great unifying bodies of Europe is long overdue, to create a EuroVision Union (EVU). Only then will we have a Europe we can all understand and sing along to, with viewing and voting figures to match.
It just requires the 28 EU nations, all currently stakeholders in the Song Contest brand, to phase
out loss-making areas of the tired EU model and focus more on the performing arts.
There are so many advantages: adopting the Eurovision model means boosting Europe's foreign
policy clout in the world. Because last year, despite lacking a formal foreign policy, it was the song contest and not the Union that delivered Russia its first knock-back against Ukraine since annexing Crimea.
Moscow was forced into seventh place behind Kiev in the song contest grand final, after the Ukrainian entry boosted its appeal by symbolically putting a man in a giant-sized hamster wheel.
Another advantage : the EuroVision Union would adopt the song contest's very sensible policy of letting any participating nation opt out of taking part for a year or two if it wishes - just as Ukraine did on financial grounds this year because of unforeseen extra defence spending, incidentally boosting Russia's chances of doing better.
This song contest "set-aside" principle would work wonders in the current EU, for Greece, for the UK; and for any other floundering malcontents. You just sign up at the start of each year if it suits you and pay your fees. And every nation can be a winner, however large and small, without worrying about qualified majority voting.
And the Turks have just proved how much less fuss and bother the Eurovision model is. Having been a bit brassed off at their poor Eurovision showing - despite a win in Riga in 2003, Turkey has opted out and set up its own "Turkvision", song contest, which takes entries from countries and regions which are Turkic speaking and of Turkic enthnicity.
The fact that you didn't even know about this development shows just how uncontroversial it was: it didn't need a referendum, a unanimous Treaty change or any ratification or years of endless argy-bargy - the Turks just did it. (The most recent Turkvision fest was last November. The winner was Kazhakstan. Turkey came fifteenth. Out of fifteen.)
Anyway the case for a merger between Eurovision and the EU is overwhelming. The first Eurovision Song Contest was held in May 1956 in Lugano, in the very same month that a report was published endorsing the results of a meeting the previous year in Messina of a group of countries intent on setting up a common market.
Switzerland won that first song contest with a song about melancholy and rain. Seven countries; singing two songs each, had taken part.
Six countries; all singing the same tune, were in at the start of what became the EU.
Now the EU has 28 members, each singing several songs at the same time, from different song sheets, while Eurovision this year had 27 entrants, singing one song each, consecutively.
And while the EU is increasingly unpopular across Europe; the Eurovision song contest is so popular that everyone now pretends they don't watch it. Even those who really really don't watch it are keen to know the result. You can't say that about your average euro-election or EU summit, can you?
If you still doubt the case for a merger between Eurovision and the EU , there's more. Two song contest entrants, Dana and Nana Mouskouri, went on to become Euro-MPs. Then a few years ago Dutch Liberal Democrat MEP Toine Manders called for an "EU Song Contest", open only to EU member states, to be held annually on Europe Day, May 9, with entrants obliged to sing in their own language.
It never happened, but but in the same year the Eurovision Song Contest did receive official backing for the first time from the EU's "European year of Equal Opportunities for All" programme.
And, bringing us bang up to date; even UKIP leader Nigel Farage has now cited the song contest in his argument about why Prime Minister David Cameron will fail to get serious EU reforms.
The Cameron pledge to alter the UK's balance of power in the EU is laughable, says Farage, given the "level of prejudice" against British singers in the song contest.
Be that as it may, Europe, and Britain in Europe, needs lights, action, glitz and glamour as well as fusty old politics. We all need a Europe in which the next Treaty crisis or economic shockwave is countered by a rousing yodel from Austria; a Baltic ballad or some riotous heavy metal from Finland.
So get out the greasepaint, bring on the orchestra, the acrobats and the crooners; and the appreciative roar of the crowd will follow.
A EuroVision Union is just what the jaded public needs - something which delivers the political goods by making a song and dance about the issues that matter most to them, preferably in not more than three minutes.