Baltics consider Eurovision pullout

  • 2008-08-27
  • By Adam Mullett

DIMA NO MORE: The Russian pop singer recently canceled shows in Tallinn, now there are calls to boycott the next Eurovision.

VILNIUS - The Baltic States are considering abstaining from next year's Eurovision contest, which will be staged in Moscow, as a show of protest against Russia's actions in Georgia.
Estonia's minister of culture, Laine Janes, said that his country should withdraw from Eurovision Song Contest 2009 as a boycott in response to Russia's behavior regarding Georgia.
Janes has support from the Estonian public. Two-thirds of readers of one of Estonia's biggest papers, Postimees, supported the boycott.

Lithuanian National Radio and Television head Rimvydas Paleckis suggested that Lithuania could do the same and abstain from the competition.
The suggestion has come under fire from television industry professionals, who say that the competition should remain separate from politics.
Svante Stockselius, an executive at the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the annual Eurovision Song Contest, said that Eurovision was a non-political event and that politicians have no say in whether to boycott it.

Stockselius said that he could not understand the boycott proposal, which was made by Janes and the chairman of the Estonian National Broadcasting Association, Margus Allikmaa,
"These issues should not be linked. We are organizing a non-political event and if the hosting country is able to ensure the safety of participants, there is no reason why it should not be allowed to host the finals," said Stockselius.
Latvian sentiments echo Stockselius' opinion. Raimond Pauls, a Latvian composer, says that his country should not follow its neighbor's lead.

"I'm absolutely against mixing up culture and politics. Latvia must participate at Eurovision 2009," Pauls said. "Music does not mind about borders or politics."
Although it would be a last resort, Paleckis has left Lithuanian withdrawal on the table. "I think it is still too early to talk about it, but judging by the events and how Russia behaves, it is obvious that it might occur," he said.

Culture Minister of Lithuania Jonas Jucas said that it is too early to speak about the protest boycott, saying that to boycott the competition now would be hasty and foolish.
Jucas mentioned that Lithuania has indicated its determined stand on the military actions in Georgia and that the stand of the European Union is also explicit on this issue. "Spontaneous decisions might aggravate the efforts of diplomats to harmonize the conflict. It is not the right time to speak about that," he said.

 Allikmaa initiated the debate about the political boycott of the song competition.
"We will initiate a public debate concerning whether Estonia should participate at the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow or ignore it due to the Russian aggression against Georgia and the ongoing occupation of it. In my personal opinion, it would be wiser not to participate at the contest," Allikmaa said.
Janes said that while Estonia is considering the move,,the singers representing the country will be consulted for their opinion before any decision is reached. She also said that solidarity must exist with Lithuania and Latvia to show consolidated support for Georgia.

Russia won the right to host the 2009 contest when pop balladeer Dima Bilan secured his country's first-ever victory in this year's event, held in Serbia in May.