Despite my loathing of pop music I switched on the Eurovision to watch the scoring. It’s an overhang from my youth when Saturday night TV was a family ritual that included the Late, Late Show with Gay Byrne or the Late, Late Show with Gay Byrne. Back then Dallas was regarded as too racy children. So the Eurovision was a welcome distraction, which kept us excitedly glued to the TV, only to see if Ireland would beat the UK. It did n’t really matter if we won, as beating the UK was our prize. The most feared words in the competition were ‘nil points’. So at the weekend I let the remote do the talking and switched over to catch the scoring.
Judging by some of the acts in this recession weary world it seemed as if some countries just did not want to win. Certainly Ireland by choosing numpty Twins Jedward and the UK choosing septuagenarian crooner, Engelbert Humperdinck neither country appeared to show any national appetite for hosting next year’s Eurovision. But at least Ireland beat the UK again. Exactly why Britain enters the Eurovision is unclear, as their anti-European credentials seem to work against them. Certainly it’s hard to compete against the raft of former Eastern Bloc countries that seamlessly swap points with each other without the threat of a hammer and sickle.
While one expects the Scandinavian countries to buddy up in the Eurovision, a more surprising voting alliance is that amongst the Balkan states who only fifteen years ago were knocking seven bells out of each other in a bloody, sectarian and ethnic war. For the host country Azerbaijan, an oil rich place that is rife with corruption and political nepotism, it was an opportunity to promote the country as the Dubai of the Caspian. As a child I could never understand why Israel was part of the Eurovision and still don’t. That Azerbaijan a central Asian country is allowed to participate is even more perplexing. Apparently eligibility is to do with being part of the European Broadcasting Union, which covers North Africa, the Middle East, and it seems parts of central Asia too. It’s a daft set of rules which allows a lot of non democratic countries with questionable commitments to human rights an opportunity to launch a public relations platform to the world. Even old battered and bruised Greece, the bête noir of the EU came 17th. Which proves that someone somewhere in Europe still loves them with even Germany managing to give them one point.
All of which leads to the more serious question about the future of the euro and the EU. The problem amongst commentating on the Europe is that for reasons of political prejudice some commentators lump; Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal into the same basket, yet they are not all the same. Greece quite frankly is kaput and it has neither the resolve nor the intention to cure its ills. The country should never have been allowed to join the euro in the first place. Greece makes Irish public sector largesse seem scrooge like in comparison. The fundamentals of the Irish economy are sound. The country has shown its ability to adapt and in particular its ability to switch from financial services to hi-tech and new media as it is home to Google, Twitter, facebook etc.
Its over-heated property sector is starting to stabilise slowly and it has learned the hard way that light touch regulation in financial services does not work. Spain has been hiding it woes and there is a real danger that Spain may implode. Recently leading commentators have suggested that the half in half out mode of European unity does not work and that if the European ideal is to work then it has to function like a United States of Europe. The very thought of this will have right and left wing xenophobes running to the medicine cabinet for Valium. Yet there is much merit to the concept. A stronger EU has to be one, which is more centralised and one, which has the ability and the power of censure to stop spendthrift governments acting irresponsibly. Naturally there will be a cost to this in terms of a so called loss of sovereignty but how many countries are truly sovereign in terms of their trading, financial services, mobility of labour and security in terms of food, energy and defence? Few if any but an effective EU should be more defined by rules than the Eurovision.