EU demands explanation about Eurovision Song Contest ban on EU flag

The Eurovision Song Contest continued to spark unprecedented controversy days after the winner was crowned, with the 27-nation European Union slamming organizers for their “incoherence” in banning the flag from the concert hall during the final.

In an unusually sharp letter, Margaritis Schinas, vice-president of the European Commission, wrote to the organizer, the Switzerland-based European Broadcast Union, that the ban contributes to “discrediting a symbol that brings all Europeans together.” In a competition already full of controversy, the European Commission said on Monday it plans “a very lively discussion” with organizers over the ban. Even though the 27-nation EU did not compete as such, many of its member states did, and the star-spangled blue flag is often seen as a unity for all involved. Schinas wrote that “such actions have cast a shadow over what is meant to be a joyful occasion for peoples across Europe and the world to come together to celebrate.” The flag can be seen at countless events in EU countries and often flies alongside the national colours, from small town halls to huge government buildings. Schinas was particularly bitter because the ban came just a month before EU-wide parliamentary elections, where the EU as an institution is hotly debated and often attacked by extremist parties. “The incoherence in the EBU’s position has left me and many millions of your viewers wondering what and who the Eurovision Song Contest stands for,” the letter said. During the week-long competition, organizers were already in turmoil due to protests related to the war in Gaza and Israel’s participation in the event, on top of the disqualification of the Dutch participant. Swedish police said on Monday that Joost Klein will likely be charged with making illegal threats. The nature of the alleged threats has not been disclosed.

Ahead of the final, a spokesperson for the European Broadcasting Union said ticket holders were only allowed to bring and display flags representing participating countries, as well as the rainbow-colored flag, which is a symbol for LGBTQ+ communities. Swiss singer Nemo won the 68th Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday evening with ‘The Code’, an operatic-pop-rap ode to the singer’s journey to embracing a non-gender identity.

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