Kyiv 2017

Analysing the pots for the 2017 semi-final allocation draw

This morning, the EBU revealed the pots for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest semi-final allocation draw. This draw will determine which semi-final each country will perform in. The draw will combine two elements. The first draw will determine in which semi-final the pre-qualified countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom) will vote in. The second, and main, draw will then allocate each country to one of the two semi-finals. This will take place at 11am CET on 31st January. It will be hosted at the Column Hall of Kyiv’s City State Administration and broadcast live via YouTube, courtesy of

About the allocation draw…

It has already been decided that the first semi-final will contain 18 countries, and that the second will contain 19 countries. In addition, following approval from the EBU and the Reference Group, Switzerland will perform in the second semi-final. Also, Germany have been allocated to vote in the second semi-final. Both of these requests were made especially by the German and Swiss national broadcasters, ARD and SRF, respectively.
As explained by and the EBU, the 37 semi-finalists have been divided into six pots “based on historical voting patterns as calculated by the contest’s official televoting partner Digame”. This is to reduce the chance of so-called neighbourly voting and “increase suspense in the semi-finals”. You can check out which country is in which pot by reading below and we discuss why the pots have been divided in the way they have.

Pot 1 (The Balkans)

  • Albania
  • Croatia
  • F.Y.R. Macedonia
  • Montenegro
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia
  • Switzerland

We start off with a very easy pot to analyse. This pot remains exactly the same as the first pot last year which primarily contains the former Yugoslav states, except for one change. Their shared cultures and close ties have resulted in these countries exchanging points more often than with other countries. In addition, their Balkan neighbour Albania has kept their place in the so-called ‘Balkan pot’. In terms of points received, no other country has awarded more points to Albania than F.Y.R. Macedonia.
The other country in this pot is Switzerland who have taken the place of Bosnia & Herzegovina in this pot when comparing the pot allocations of this year and last year. While initially this seems an unusual decision, Switzerland has a very high number of residents that originate from the Balkan region. Indeed, according to statistics from the Swiss Federal Statistics Office, over 300,000 of Switzerland’s residents have moved to the country permanently from the Balkan countries. Therefore, this causes a ‘diaspora’ effect where those that have emigrated are able to vote for their country of origin. As a result, Switzerland tends to award higher points to the former Yugoslav states hence their inclusion in this pot.

Pot 2 (Northern Europe)

  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Sweden

As with pot 1, there is also one change in pot 2 for 2017. With Sweden losing their automatic qualifier status, they have joined their Nordic neighbours in this pot. As a result, Latvia have been removed as the country considered to have the loosest ties, and given the least number of points, to the other countries in this pot. This pot can also be broken up into pairs. Denmark and Iceland have historically close relations with the latter being part of the Kingdom of Denmark up until the start of the 20th century. Norway and Sweden are, of course, neighbours and have close ties.
Finally, Finland and Estonia’s national languages are part of the same language family, a family no other European country’s official languages are a part of with the sole exception of Hungary. Naturally, the two countries are only separated by the Gulf of Finland. Over the years, Estonia has been establishing closer ties with the Nordic region as a whole and, using Eurovision as an example, have been invited to the Nordic party during Eurovision week for the past couple of years!

Pot 3 (The former Soviets)

  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Georgia
  • Israel
  • Russia

Yet again, one change has been made in pot 3 for 2017. With Ukraine gaining automatic qualifier status, that has opened up a spot in the so-called ‘former Soviet’ pot. This spot has gone to Israel who have tended to vote highly for Russia in particular in recent years. According to RadioFreeEurope, Israel now has the world’s third-largest Russian-speaking minority outside the former Soviet Union as a result of significant emigration from those states to Israel in the 1980s. Therefore, this has resulted in Israel having closer ties with Russia and the rest of the former Soviet states in comparison to most other Eurovision participants.
The rest of the pot consists of the three Caucasus countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) and Russia’s neighbour Belarus. All of these countries have tended to award higher points to each other over the years as a result of their similar cultures and histories.

Pot 4 (South-eastern Europe)

  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Moldova
  • Romania

The remaining three pots have all seen substantial changes. Pot 4 for 2017 belongs almost exclusively to south-eastern Europe. Greece and Cyprus are one of the most infamous Eurovision pairings in terms of exchanging points, naturally due to their shared language and very close historical ties. Romania and Moldova are similar in that discussions regarding reunification of the two countries have been discussed in the past. In addition, Moldova does not have its own language with Romanian being the country’s official language.
Bulgaria tends to straddle these two pairings but have historically closer Eurovision ties to Greece and Cyprus. Bulgaria have awarded Greece more points than anyone else in Eurovision finals whereas Bulgaria have received more points from Cyprus than any other country, except for F.Y.R. Macedonia, when adding together points received in both Eurovision semi-finals and finals.
The odd one out in this pot is Hungary, but there is method behind the madness. Romania’s population consists of over 1.2 million Hungarians according to official Romanian statistics. Consequently, Hungary have received more points from Romania at Eurovision than any other country except for Finland. As previously mentioned, Hungarian and Finnish are amongst the same language family. However, Finns and Hungarians would not be able to understand each other so this is only a tenuous link. In addition, as the years have passed, both of these countries have had an increased tendency to sing in English rendering the language link invalid on those occasions.

Pot 5 (The others)

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Czech Republic
  • Malta
  • Portugal
  • San Marino

Pot 5 for this year contains what we can affectionately call ‘the others’. These countries lack any obvious links as a collective. San Marino and Malta have both exchanged a relatively high number of points over the years. Both of these countries share a large number of Italian speakers. Excluding the Nordic countries, Australia have received more points from Austria than any other country (tied with Albania). Therefore, with no room in the Nordic pot it makes sense for these two to be placed together.
Austria also factor highly when it comes to statistics in regards to who has awarded the Czech Republic the most points during their Eurovision history. While these countries are neighbours, the limited number of contests that the Czech Republic have appeared in suggests this could just be coincidental. Portugal’s only obvious Eurovision ties are with Spain and, to a smaller extent, Italy and France. With all three of these countries being automatic qualifiers, this leaves Portugal with no obvious voting allies to join them in their pot.

Pot 6 (The Baltics and Low Countries)

  • Belgium
  • Ireland
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • The Netherlands

The final pot is decided mostly due to the large diasporas of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. According to the 2011 Irish census, these three countries are the largest immigrant groups in Ireland alongside the United Kingdom. In addition, Latvians, Lithuanians and Poles are three of the largest European immigrant groups residing in the UK. As a result, Ireland and the UK have regularly voted for these three in recent years. While the UK are automatic qualifiers and do not factor in the pot allocation draw, it makes sense for Ireland, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland to be placed together. In addition, Latvia, Poland and particularly Lithuania in both cases have exchanged points between one another due to their close geographical and cultural ties.
The remaining countries in this pot, Belgium and The Netherlands feature at the top of each other’s voting histories. Belgium are the only other European country with Dutch as an official language and have strong cultural ties. For example, the two countries joined together to bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup but were unsuccessful.
This is just a brief overview of all of the many different elements that affect the Eurovision voting system. Perhaps you know of additional reasons as to why your country has been placed in a certain pot? Do let us know via the comments section below or via our Facebook and Twitter pages @escXtra!

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