Organizers of the Europe’s most popular song contest have expressed hope that Armenia will participate in next year’s Eurovision show that will be held in Baku.
Azerbaijan won the right to stage the 57th Eurovision Song Contest in May 2012 because of the victory of the Azerbaijani duo Ell & Nikki in this year's contest in Duesseldorf, Germany.
The Armenian Public Television, which selects singers representing the country in Eurovision, has made its participation conditional on firm security guarantees by the Azerbaijani government. This stance reflects the two countries’ unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijani officials say that all of about 40 countries that are part of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the contest organizer, can be certain about the safety of their singers in Baku. But they have yet to offer special guarantees to the Armenian delegation.
Sietse Bakker, the Eurovision event supervisor, confirmed this in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) this week.
“We have asked the authorities in Azerbaijan to provide us with guarantees on safety and security of all participating delegations and that of course includes the Armenian delegation as well,” Bakker said at the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. “They are very welcome to participate in Baku next year. We certainly hope they do.
“And of course of they have any specific requests, it will be best to just come forward with that and discuss this. But the principal foundations of security and safety have been laid down in that guarantee from the prime minister [of Azerbaijan.]”
“I would say that the Eurovision song contest is such a great event because it brings people from 40 nations to sing, to enjoy, to have fun,” continued Bakker. “It is not political. It was never meant to be and should never be because that is part of the success of this event.”
“And I sincerely hope that under the same Eurovision roof next year in May everyone will be able to enjoy that peaceful spirit of European countries joining together to make a great song contest, and Armenia and Azerbaijan are both part of that family,” added the EBU official.
Some Armenian singers do not object in principle to the Armenian participation. “There would be nothing heroic about that,” said pop start Hayko, who represented Armenia in the 2007 Eurovision contest.
“If there are security guarantees not only from Azerbaijan but the EBU we can think about participating with a quality singer,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “But if we are not sure that everything will be fine, we can also boycott [the contest.]”
Over the past decade, the Azerbaijani government has sought to minimize visits to Azerbaijan by government officials, public figures and other individuals from Armenia. It considers such visits an affront to the country’s honor and territorial integrity, citing the unresolved Karabakh conflict.
Many in Armenia are also concerned that Armenians would meet with hostile reception from the Azerbaijani audience should they sing in the Baku contest.
“Of course, we cannot rule out such a possibility, but we have to be realistic on this issue,” said Bakker. “Eurovision is watched by around 100 million television viewers and their job is to judge songs and reaction from the audience. One should also bear in mind that many European music fans will be going to Baku and they will be sitting in front of the stage and supporting our position that this event must not be politicized.”
Incidentally, the 26-year-old Bakker will also be supervising this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest that will be held in Yerevan in December. Azerbaijan will not be represented at the children’s contest.