Kosovo delegation heads to Eurovision Song Contest, despite denials by organisers

Eurovision Song ContestA top-ranking delegation from Kosovo will attend next week’s Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna in an on-going bid to join the list of competing nations.

Wild Rooster editor Marcus Agar has been told that the team, fronted by Mentor Shala, Director General of Kosovar broadcaster RTK, plus two senior colleagues, will fly to Vienna this weekend.

While at the contest, the delegation will attend Eurovision events and hold meetings about future objectives for Kosovo in the song contest. 

“We have agreement with EBU as a observator but not member,’ said Mr Shala.

“Of course, we have very good cooperation with EBU but, for political reasons, we can’t be full member. It is true [that we are an official delegation].”

EBU denial contradicts official Eurovision documents

In an odd twist that is especially ironic given this year’s contest slogan of ‘Building Bridges’Eurovision officials have denied the mere existence of such a delegation from Kosovo.

This denial comes in spite of what appears to be contradictory evidence on an official document issued by Eurovision organisers, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which lists the names of Mr Shala and his colleagues as Heads of Delegation from Kosovo.

“The news about a Kosovar delegation attending the Song Contest this year is false,’ said Dave Goodman, EBU Communications Officer. “None of the people you have mentioned have accreditation or any official role in connection with the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna.”

The EBU-issued document, obtained by Wild Rooster, lists attending delegations from all competing countries, as well as a handful of others, such as Bosnia and Croatia, who have dropped out of the event this year. If the EBU is to believed, not all delegations will be welcomed equally in Vienna.

EBU key to establishing RTK in Kosovo

Ties between the EBU and Kosovar national broadcaster RTK are long and strong (pictured: EBU Media Director Annika Nyberg-Frankenhaeuser & RTK’s Mentor Shala in 2013).

The EBU was key in establishing RTK as the national broadcaster for Kosovo in 1999. Back in 2013, EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre wished Mr Shala every success in his new job as Director General of RTK.

“The EBU has a special place in its heart for your organization after we took part in its establishment after the Kosovo war,” she said. “We look forward to taking forward our relationship under your leadership.”

EBU Media Director Annika Nyberg-Frankenhaeuser & RTK's Mentor Shala in 2013

At that time, EBU documents state that RTK would be a beneficiary of an EU-financed EBU action plan being rolled out by the EBU’s Partnership Programme under the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the EBU and European Union.

The EBU went on to say that the plan was designed to strengthen the public service media of EU accession countries, including Kosovo.

Politics prevents Kosovo joining Eurovision, says RTK’s Shala

Speaking to Marcus Agar, editor of Wild Rooster, this weekend, Mr Shala confirmed that talks about Kosovo becoming a member of the Eurovision Song Contest began when he took up his post, two years ago.

Due to political rules of the EBU, a non-profit organisation established in Switzerland in 1950 to protect the interests of public service media, Kosova and RTK are barred from entry.

“We started negotiation with the EBU from 2013 to be member of song contest,’ said Mr Shala. “Unfortunately, for political reasons, we cannot be part of either the EBU or the Eurosong [Eurovision Song] Contest

“There is an article in the EBU statute that is an obstacle to membership of RTK in this organisation which pretends to be non-political. This article does not allow countries that are not member of the UN or Council of Europe to be part of EBU.

“For me, it is nonsense that a non-political organisation (EBU) should have political rules for its operation.

“Even if we agree that membership of the EBU is difficult for political reasons , I cannot agree with the EBU that we as Kosovars can’t sing in Eurosong because of any political reasons.”

We just want to sing, Kosovo tells Eurovision

This week, the presence of Mr Shala and the Kosovar delegation at the Eurovision Song Contest will maintain pressure on the EBU and help prepare the way for possible future involvement. Until that time, Kosovar singers must look across the borders for a chance of success.

Mentor Shala RTK

“We have a lot of talented people who can’t represent Kosovo in Eurosong. As they are unable to represent their country they must represent neighboring countries.

“Maybe you remember Albanian representative Rona Nishliu three years ago, who came fifth in final. The EBU gave her an award for best voice. She is Kosovar and works in RTK.

“But we will continue to make pressure on the EBU to let Kosovars sing in Eurovision.

“We are not requesting more than for them to allow us to sing!”

It would appear that this is too much to ask of the EBU, who appear embarrassed by the presence of the delegation – and supporting documentation issued by their own offices in Switzerland – that they have repeatedly denied its very existence.

Maybe someone should tell that to Mentor Shala and his two colleagues who will be boarding a plane to Vienna as Heads of Delegation to the Eurovision Song Contest. Or maybe the EBU should just get its story straight. 

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