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One of our editors just wrote an article about the number of participants and I agree that it’s unfortunate we’re only going to have 36 countries this year, regardless of the reasons. Eurovision, in my opinion, is about celebrating European unity and appreciating the individual countries within Europe, so with Eurovision I always believe the more the merrier!
After reading the article, I started thinking about which countries were withdrawing. Here’s a list of countries that could participate but are not: Andorra, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Serbia, Slovakia, and Turkey. (I’m ignoring Morocco since it’s been over 30 years)
What is noticeable about these 10 countries is their location – they are mostly Eastern European and largely Balkan. True, Andorra, Luxembourg, and Monaco won’t be in Copenhagen, but that’s not really surprising because they haven’t participated in a while (Andorra last participated in 2009, Luxembourg in 1993, and Monaco in 2006). The Czech Republic too wasn’t a big surprise because they have only participated three times and don’t seem to be very interested in re-joining Eurovision. That essentially leaves Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Serbia, Slovakia, and Turkey as countries we would expect to participate but are not. Four of these seven countries are Balkan (and if Slovenia drops out then that will be another former-Yugoslavian country). So, why aren’t the Balkan countries participating?
I believe there are two main explanations. First, and officially, there are financial concerns. Most of the countries cited financial concerns as their main reason for withdrawal, except for Turkey, which withdrew to protest the voting system, and Croatia had organizational reasons. With many of these countries facing large economic issues, it’s unsurprising – albeit sad – that they have cut Eurovision.
Second, the withdrawal of the Balkan countries may be a result of a “domino effect.” I was recently talking to a Montenegrin friend about Sergej Četković being the representative in this year’s contest. I (somewhat) jokingly said that Montenegro doesn’t stand much of a chance with all these Balkan countries dropping out. And that’s basically what I mean by a “domino effect,” that once one or two of the Balkan countries dropped out, the likelihood of the remaining Balkan countries making the finals and/or doing well overall decreases, which makes it easier to drop out.
In my thesis I looked at voting biases in Eurovision. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of voting between Balkan countries (Cyprus and Turkey also have relationships with the Balkan countries). Bosnia is statistically likely to receive votes from Serbia, Croatia, and Turkey. Bulgaria is likely to receive votes from Cyprus and Turkey. Croatia is likely to receive votes from Bosnia and Serbia. Serbia is likely to get votes from Bosnia and Croatia (and Bulgarian televoters). Because these countries receive many of their votes from one another, when one drops out, the others prognosis for the competition isn’t as favorable. They can stay and perhaps not do very well, or drop out.
I don’t believe this is just purely about the votes, though. I think it is also influenced by regional factors. If every other Balkan country were participating except, for example, Serbia, it would likely be more noticeable that Serbia was absent. But with Serbia’s neighbors also not going to Eurovision, it’s not as big of a deal that Serbia won’t have a representative. Considering all of this – that these countries are dealing with budget issues, that their neighbors are dropping out, and also perhaps that the Balkans did not do very well last year – it’s easier to understand why they won’t be in Copenhagen.
I don’t know exactly why these countries withdrew and I don’t know the precise economic situation in each of them. Their withdrawals could purely be economic, although other considerations were probably a factor. I hope in 2015 we see a reemergence of Balkan countries, but that will likely depend both on the economy and the other Balkan countries.