The official flag policy for Eurovision 2016 has triggered unprecedented outrage in the land of the 1000 Eurodramas. A draft of the European Broadcasting Union document placed the Basque flag (Ikurriña) next to that of the Islamic State. This has been interpreted as criminalizing the flag by many parts of Basque and Spanish society.
Reaction from Spaniards was swift and critical.
From the national broadcaster to the Basque government, a series of public bodies flooded the Spanish media with their outrage.
On Friday Eusko Jaurlaritza (the Basque executive) received an apology from the EBU. Let’s go around and review all the reactions.
Early morning: Basque government demands an explanation
The controversy started on Thursday, when the official ticket seller Axs.com published the document. EH Bildu, a left-wing party, demanded a response from the Swedish embassy.
As it turns out, the published document was a draft of the EBU’s policy that wasn’t yet ready for publication.
— EH Bildu Congreso – Senado (@ehbilducongreso) April 28, 2016
Things heated up on Friday when the Lehendakari (Basque president) Iñigo Urkullu demanded that the EBU remove the banner from the list. And if they wouldn’t, he suggested that Spain withdraw from the competition.
The news made headlines in major media around Spain, including Cadena SER, eldiario.es, Público and ABC. Even one of the heads of PP, Javier Maroto — who you might remember as the Eurovision fan politician — reacted.
Things get even more serious: the government and RTVE react
Around noon, a Spanish political storm hit Sweden. The national broadcaster RTVE published an official announcement stating their “perplexity”. They also informed the public that, as much as they were unconnected with the flag policy, they demanded explanations and a correction. You can read RTVE’s statement here.
The president of the corporation, José Antonio Sánchez, expressed his “surprise” because of the inclusion of the Ikurriña in the list. He also pointed out that the banner is an official flag recognised by the Spanish legislation, the Basque Statute of Autonomy and the Spanish Constitution.
— eurovision_rtve (@eurovision_tve) April 29, 2016
A bit later, during the press conference after the weekly meeting of the Spanish cabinet, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, the spokesperson of the government, demanded “respect” towards the Basque citizens and their “constitutional, legal and legitimate” flag. Moreover, she stated that the Spanish government would defend Ikurriña, “whatever it takes”.
Furthermore, Sáenz de Santamaría explained that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would send a complaint to the Swedish government and that RTVE would do so to the Eurovision organizing committee.
— 24h (@24h_tve) April 29, 2016
The EBU rectifies and apologizes
On Friday the EBU responded to the multiple Spanish inquiries. In an official statement, the organization said they understand the concerns that the list triggered and that they were sorry for that.
— EBU (@EBU_HQ) April 29, 2016
The EBU has also asked both Axs.com and Globenarena.se to replace the former documents with a new version, which does not feature the sample banned flags list.
At the end of the day, once the waters calmed down, it was the Prime Minister’s turn to make a statement on the incident. Although he did not cite it directly, Mariano Rajoy wished Barei good luck at the #EuroPartyBarei, one of her last promo events before leaving for Stockholm, in a Tweet that also contained the Basque flag:
— Mariano Rajoy Brey (@marianorajoy) April 29, 2016
Kosovo also reacts
RTVE was not the only broadcaster upset by the EBU’s flag policy. Kosovo’s RTK has also expressed its uneasiness with the EBU’s rule in an official statement (which you can read in English here):
— RTK TV (@rtktv) April 29, 2016
The Kosovan national broadcaster went further than the Spanish and described the incident as “racism and an insult to the citizens of Kosovo”.
What do you think of all this flag controversy? Do you think regional flags should be banned at Eurovision? Let us know in the comment section!