The EBU has today confirmed the 19 countries that will be competing in Junior Eurovision 2018 — and with it comes one big surprise. Among the list of regulars and returning countries is the debut of the Central Asian nation Kazakhstan.
Like Australia, Kazakhstan is not a full member of the European Broadcasting Association. However, also like Australia‘s SBS, local broadcaster Khabar Agency is an associate member of the EBU which means they can be invited as a special guest competitor. This now makes two countries with associate membership of the EBU who have received a guest invitation to compete in JESC.
It’s long been known that Kazakhstan has been keen to get involved with Eurovision. Last year broadcaster Channel 31 claimed that Kazakhstan would be sending a delegation to Lisbon and would be debuting at Eurovision 2019.
However, the EBU issued a clarification, stating that “since Channel 31 is outside the European Broadcasting Area and is also not a member of the Council of Europe, it is not eligible to become an active Member of the EBU.”
But the news that Kazakhstan will be participating in Junior Eurovision opens the very real possibility that Kazakhstan could potentially be invited to participate at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Also on the list of confirmed countries is Wales. The British country has previously had a presence at Junior Eurovision, represented by the United Kingdom in their brief participation period from 2003 to 2005.
Wales will now participate as an individual country, with the Welsh-language public broadcaster S4C taking responsibility for the entry. Taking a cue from Ireland, Wales will also use a national final to pick its act for Minsk. The show Chwilio am Seren (Search for a Star) will screen later this year.
Returning to Junior Eurovision 2018 will be Azerbaijan, who last competed in 2014. France is also making a comeback, after having only competed once before, in 2004.
Eurovision 2018 winner Israel will also return to Junior Eurovision, after last competing in 2016. This follows Portugal who also returned to JESC after their Eurovision win.
As well as the above, Junior Eurovision 2018 will also feature returning countries Albania, Armenia, Belarus, FYR Macedonia, Georgia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia and the Netherlands. Previous regular participants Cyprus and Ukraine have both declined to participate in JESC 2018.
This makes a total of 19 competitors — the most Junior Eurovision has ever had. Combined with the 10,000+ capacity of Minsk Arena, JESC 2018 is shaping up to be a huge show. It is possible that Belarus has gone to extra effort to ensure the arena will be packed with as many people and acts as possible.
Fans are now wondering what the inclusion of Kazakhstan and Wales will mean for the Eurovision Song Contest. Can we expect Kazakhstan to join Australia in getting a guest invitation to Eurovision? Is it possible that England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will join Wales by competing individually at Eurovision?
With the door having been nudged open by both Australia at Eurovision and Kazakhstan at Junior Eurovision, Kazakhstan at Eurovsion does now seem a possibility, if not a certainty.
As for the dis-United Kingdom, while the BBC had no involvement with Junior Eurovision, they have been a regular participant in Eurovision and are a major financial contributor to the EBU. It seems unlikely that they would be happy with other British or Irish networks invading their turf.
But what do you think? Should the EBU invite more non-member guests to Junior Eurovision? Who should Kazakhstan send to sing in Minsk? And should Kazakhstan get a guest invitation to Eurovision? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!