The European Rightly
September 23rd, 2018
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‘Eurovision was my sexual awakening’

May 7th, 2013

May 18th will mark the 58th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest. Many political greats across Europe have shared their fondest memories about the contest with us. ‘It’s all about power and oppression.’

A teenage Van Rompuy loved Jacqueline Boyer and her 'stiff little dress'.

President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy is an avid fan of Eurovision. ‘I recall watching the contest in 1960. The whole experience was a moment of sexual awakening for me,’ the Christian Democrat admits with a shy smile. ‘Boys and girls in America had Elvis, but my imagination was gripped by Jacqueline Boyer and her stiff little dress.’

Van Rompuy hastens to add that he has now been happily married for many years and that such thoughts don’t cross his mind often anymore. ‘My wife and I now watch the Contest together. It’s always an amazing event that reminds me of the Europe that is and could be.’

Franco-German firebrand Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the European Greens, is also a fan, but that wasn’t always the case. ‘As a student, I hated the Contest. It was a stuffy, bourgeois affair for old people.’ Cohn-Bendit claims he changed his mind in the 1990s, when Israel won the ESC with the transsexual singer Dana International.

‘Suddenly it occurred to me that Eurovision could be a tool for progress, too. Eurovision itself has now become an annual Gay Pride event, and naturally that has my full support. It’s all about gayness and queerness that transcends nationalities’, he says.

Štefan Füle, the Czech European Commissioner responsible for the EU’s enlargement policy, watches the Contest for political reasons. ‘Many countries that are part of the European Broadcasting Union are not part of the EU, but do want membership. I can tell you that informally, the quality of these countries’ entries in the Contest plays a role when we discuss their qualifications for EU membership.’

Füle adds that it helped improve the prospects of countries like Moldova and Ukraine. ‘Their entries have just been so delightfully silly. We were like, “Okay, those guys understand what Europe is all about.” I mean, if you send a bunch of weirdoes playing the trumpet on a unicycle, then you’ve definitely made progress as a nation.’

Not everyone of Europe’s elites is fond of the ESC. Slovenian philosopher and culture critic Slavoj Žižek has branded it as a ‘nauseating relic of World War II, colonialism and the Cold War, all rolled into one post-democratic perversion’.

‘The voting system is rigged to favour politics that frankly would not look out of place at the Congress of Vienna of 1814, with Great Powers vying for supremacy,’ states Žižek. ‘Each state sends in a band of mercenaries – often people of colour – and carves out positions that have nothing to do with ideology. It’s all about power and oppression.’

Štefan Füle:
‘If you send some weirdoes on a unicycle to the Contest, that’s progress towards EU membership’

Surely, it is better than fighting wars? Žižek objects: ‘To paraphrase the military strategist von Clausewitz, Eurovision is just a continuation of war by other means.’

This article is the first in a series about the Eurovision Song Contest. Up next: ‘Why on earth is Spain still in Eurovision?!’

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