Some of my best childhood memories are of my father starting a barbecue and then pulling the television set onto our porch for the family to watch (drum roll, please)... Eurovision! Yes, I’m not ashamed to say that the cheesy but loveable European song contest has long been a part of my life – whether joining a viewing party at the Goethe-Institut in Washington or attending the festivities live in Vienna in 2015 – and has often served as a reminder of what Europe has in common. So I was delighted to hear this week that a version of the spectacle, which had been scheduled to take place in Rotterdam, will go ahead on 16 May, albeit in a non-competitive digital format called Europe Shine a Light.
The timing of the announcement was awkward as it’s been a rough week for European unity. Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, called out the Netherlands for a “repugnant” lack of solidarity after the Dutch finance minister proposed an investigation into why Spain’s finances were not prepared to handle the coronavirus outbreak. “Anyone who wants to be in an EU with 27 members has to understand that being in a union is not to live in isolation,” Costa told reporters. “The EU is about sharing both difficulties and advantages with others.”
Although Costa’s comments prompted a retreat from the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte (who apologised for his finance minister and pledged greater “solidarity”), it also served as a warning sign: Europe is in danger of fracturing along old fault lines during this pandemic. Southern nations are pushing for a common form of debt (“corona bonds”) to manage the crisis, while northern European nations are hesitant to foot too much of the bill. And so it’s ironic that a Dutch broadcaster will be hosting Eurovision’s online show. Perhaps those running the Netherlands can glean a little light from it themselves.