Editorials & Opinion

Why Kazakhstan could make their Eurovision debut in 2017…

escXtra recently looked into the possibility of Kosovo joining the Eurovision Song Contest and now it is time to head further east. Kazakhstan have broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest since 2010, have territory in Europe’s geographical boundaries and broadcaster Khabar Agency became an associate member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in January 2016. However under the current rules of the Eurovision Song Contest, Kazakhstan are not able to compete. It’s time to investigate why this is the case and why we could still be about to receive the news that Kazakhstan will in fact participate in the 2017 contest.

What are Eurovision’s entry requirements?

To participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, the current rules state that a broadcaster must be an active member of the EBU. To be able to become an active member of the EBU, rather than an associate member which the Kazakh broadcaster was admitted as at the beginning of this year, the country the broadcaster represents must be either in the European Broadcasting Area (EBA) or a member state of the Council of Europe.

Why isn’t Kazakhstan in the EBA?

The International Telecommunication Union defines the EBA using lines of longitude and latitude. The line of longitude that determines the eastern boundary of the EBA is the meridian 40 degrees east of Greenwich, which passes through western Russia, the very eastern tip of Ukraine and down through eastern Turkey, eastern Syria and into the northern tip of Saudi Arabia. Notably this boundary excludes the Caucasus states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia although a special expansion of the EBA in 2007 saw these three states become part of the EBA. Kazakhstan lies east of these boundaries.

The southern boundary of the EBA is determined by the parallel 30 degrees north which passes through all the northern-most countries of Africa and into the middle east. This means Kazakhstan is now the only country with territory in Europe to be excluded from the EBA under current rules, however back in 1999 the Council of Europe Assembly confirmed that Kazakhstan did have 4% of its territory in Europe and was therefore able to apply to join the institution.

So why isn’t Kazakhstan in the Council of Europe?

Since the discussion back in 1999, Kazakhstan have been working towards gaining membership to the Council of Europe. Membership couldn’t be immediately granted as the country needed to improve their level of democracy and human rights. Kazakhstan launched their “Path to Europe” programme back in 2008 and ever since, relations between the Council of Europe and Kazakhstan have continued to strengthen. It is therefore a realistic possibility that the country could join the Council of Europe in the near future and, once this happens, this would mean they would be allowed to become full active members of the EBU and participate in Eurovision under the current rules.

Could Eurovision’s rules change?

Now we know Kazakhstan can eventually join the Eurovision party, it’s a matter of playing the waiting game. Or is it? The EBU stated the following last month:

“For the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest EBU Associates, such as Khabar Agency in Kazakhstan, were not eligible to take part in the Contest save for an exception made for SBS Australia. The EBU is reviewing these rules ahead of next year’s competition, and will publish the latest edition on the Eurovision.tv site in due course.”

This may suggest the EBU are open to changing some rules, potentially so that they don’t have to “invite” Australia every year. But what could the rule change be? If the EBU suddenly allowed all associate members to participate as well, that would see Australia and Kazakhstan get the permanent participation they crave. However, an additional 19 other countries would also be granted participation rights and that is not a sustainable option for Eurovision. Although arguably, the only other associate member that may be interested in participation would be China based on previous comments from their broadcaster Hunan TV.

Perhaps the EBU could add an extra clause to the rule, allowing associate members to take part once they have broadcast the contest for at least five years? That would be the perfect rule to allow Australia and Kazakhstan to participate and no-one else at the current moment in time, but eventually China and the United States would become eligible too.

Do Kazakhstan think they could be participating next year?

Whatever potential rule changes may be, rumours have reportedly circulated in Kazakh media this week that they will indeed be taking part in Eurovision 2017 with Türkvizyon 2014 winner Zhanar Dugalova being named as a potential participant. Check out her winning song from that contest below:

Would you like to see Kazakhstan participate in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest? If so, how do you think the EBU will make this possible? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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