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EBU defends its decision that Eurovision 2023 can’t take place in Ukraine

By | Published on Friday 24 June 2022

Ukraine win Eurovision 2022

The European Broadcasting Union issued another statement yesterday regarding its decision to not stage the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in Ukraine, despite Ukrainian group the Kalush Orchestra winning this year’s competition.

The government and public broadcaster of Ukraine have both said that they want to host Eurovision in 2023 following Kalush Orchestra’s victory at Eurovision 2022. But earlier this month the EBU said that – given the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine – it was now in talks with the BBC about staging next year’s Eurovision shows in the UK, on the basis that UK entrant Sam Ryder was in second place at last month’s edition.

Ukrainian Culture Minister Tkachenko Oleksandr criticised that decision, and British Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson also urged the Eurovision organiser to reconsider its position regarding hosting its 2023 shows somewhere within Ukraine. However, the EBU defended its decision in the new statement yesterday.

Insisting that it “fully understands the disappointment that greeted the announcement that the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest cannot be staged in Ukraine, this year’s winning country”, it added that “the decision was guided by the EBU’s responsibility to ensure the conditions are met to guarantee the safety and security of everyone working and participating in the event, the planning of which needs to begin immediately in the host country”.

“At least 10,000 people are usually accredited to work on, or at, the Eurovision Song Contest including crew, staff and journalists”, it went on. “A further 30,000 fans are expected to travel to the event from across the world. Their welfare is our prime concern. It is therefore critical that decisions made in relation to such a complex live television event are made by broadcasting professionals and do not become politicised”.

It then explained: “The rules of the Eurovision Song Contest, that all participating broadcasters agree upon, clearly state that the event can be moved in a force majeure situation such as an ongoing war. In response to the EBU’s security questionnaire a number of risks that would impact the immediate planning for such a large event, including the ‘severe’ risk of air raids/attacks by aircraft or attacks by drones or missiles, which can cause significant casualties, were highlighted by the Ukrainian assessment provided to us”.

“Additionally”, it went on, “the EBU sought third-party expert security advice which clearly stated that the counter measures proposed to mitigate the threats planning the event in Ukraine were insufficient for an international public event and the risk rating of a mass casualty event due to the ongoing conflict is ‘high’. Alongside the security concerns, the continued conflict in Ukraine makes delegations and participants reluctant to travel to the country”.

The EBU added that it had also noted comments made by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the effect that the war in Ukraine “could take years”, and also that “no major international concert tours are visiting Ukraine throughout 2023”.

And, “with regards to the possibility of hosting the Contest in a border location close to a neighbouring country, the specifications of suggested venues, and the lack of the necessary surrounding infrastructure, do not meet the requirements of the Contest”.

“All this contributes to the EBU’s overall assessment that in terms of security and operational guarantees, the necessary requirements for hosting, as set out in the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest, are not met”, it concluded. “Taking all of this into account the EBU, with regret, made its decision to move the event to another country and will continue discussions on finding a suitable location for next year’s Eurovision Song Contest”.

Although it added that it was happy to engage further with Ukrainian broadcaster UA:PBC on all of these issues, the EBU does seem pretty adamant that next year’s Eurovision will have to happen somewhere outside of Ukraine, with the UK remaining the most likely other option.