Controversial Eurovision Snubs Volodymyr Zelensky’s Speech

The decision of the organizers of Eurovision to refuse to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to speak during the grand final of the contest on Saturday (May 13), on the grounds that it must remain “ apolitical ”, has upset more of one. This is particularly the case with the British government.

“Mr. Zelensky’s request to address the Eurovision Song Contest audience, although formulated with laudable intentions, unfortunately cannot be accepted by the management of the European Broadcasting Union as it would go to against the rules of the event”, can we read in a press release published Thursday evening (May 11) by the organizers of the competition.

Indeed, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has indicated that “ one of the cornerstones of the competition is the apolitical nature of the event ” and that, for this reason, it is not possible to “ political or similar statements in connection with the contest ”.

“Eurovision is not a political event. And we ensure that no message, no word, no action has a political message. Eurovision is not a platform for politics,” EBU Deputy Director General Jean Philip de Tender told EURACTIV during an interview in Liverpool, the city that hosted the contest this year. .

In a Facebook post, Mr. Zelensky’s press secretary denied that such a request to intervene during the grand final had been made to the organizers.

British Reactions

The EBU statement sparked harsh reactions from British politicians the day after the release of the statement.

“It’s important to remember why this year’s competition is being held in Liverpool: because of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s murderous war,” Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Greater Liverpool, said in a written statement. .

Mr Rotheram is in talks with the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK and the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Lviv — both present in Liverpool for the competition final — to discuss how to provide a platform for Mr Zelensky.

“Liverpool will always try to give a voice to those who stand up for peace and justice,” he said.

On Friday (May 12), British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, one of Ukraine’s staunchest defenders in the face of Russian aggression, also said he was disappointed with the decision.

His spokesperson said that “the values and freedoms for which President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people are fighting are not political, they are fundamental, and Eurovision itself recognized this last year when it rightly suspended Russia’s participation in the competition”.

The UK is hosting Eurovision in Liverpool this year, after Ukraine won the competition in 2022 but were unable to stage the event due to war.

“We regret that Ukraine cannot host the event,” EBU Deputy Director General de Tender told EURACTIV, adding that there were initially some hopeful signs and that ‘they had long discussions with Ukrainian broadcasters about how to organize the competition, but finally had to give up.

“In an event like this, security is crucial: there are nearly 100,000 people traveling, it’s a big production,” he added.

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Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.