Spain bristles at Eurovision ban of Basque flag… alongside IS
Madrid (AFP) – Spain reacted with fury Friday at the Eurovision’s inclusion of the Basque regional flag on a list of banned banners during the song contest, alongside the Islamic State group flag.
“It is a constitutional, legal and legitimate flag and the Spanish government will defend it whenever needed,” Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting.
Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, spoke to Spain’s ambassador in Sweden “so that he could immediately tell the organisation that it is a constitutional flag and cannot be in that list,” a ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
Organisers of the hugely popular contest, which takes place mid-May in Stockholm, apologised for what they said was a mix-up.
Eurovision said a draft version of the flag policy was published by mistake on the website of the venue and the ticket agency selling seats for the extravaganza.
“The document included a non-exhaustive list of examples of flags that under the flag policy are prohibited in the venue. This document was not intended to be published,” it said.
“The organisers apologise to everyone who feels offended by the list.”
Under Eurovision rules, regional flags — such as the red, white and green one of Spain’s northern Basque region — or those belonging to federated states, or including commercial, religious or political messages, are all banned.
Authorised are the flags of countries participating in the contest and any other UN member state, as well as the EU and rainbow banner that represents the LGBT movement or peace.
Eurovision spokesman Dave Goodman told AFP that “the flag policy is not aimed against specific territories or organisations, and certainly does not compare them to each other”.
Organisers have asked the venue and ticket agency to remove the offending document, and post another official one without the examples.
The annual contest, now in its 61st year, features acts ranging from the brilliant to the bizarre and pulls in a TV audience of around 200 million worldwide.
The competition has seen some outlandish performers since its inception in 1956, including Russian grannies, Ireland’s Dustin the Turkey and the 2006 winners, Finnish heavy metal outfit Lordi — looking like orcs from “Lord of the Rings”.