Kosovo‘s bid to become a member of the European Broadcasting Union has taken another step back. At this week’s EBU General Assembly meeting, a vote was taken on a proposal that could have eased the way for Kosovo broadcaster RTK to become a full member of the EBU — and compete at the Eurovision Song Contest. However, a majority did not support the proposal and Kosovo’s hopes were dashed.

At the General Assembly meeting in Oslo, members voted on a proposal that would have removed the requirement for EBU members to first belong to the International Telecommunication Union. RTK is currently unable to join the ITU as that union is only open to members states of the United Nations — and Kosovo is not currently a member state of the UN.

The proposed EBU rule change would have taken out the requirement to first be an ITU member, which would have made Kosovo’s RTK one step closer to gaining EBU membership and making their Eurovision debuting. The proposal was initiated by broadcasters from regional neighbours Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and North Macedonia, as well as Hungary — however Hungary later withdrew.

EBU members — including those from broadcasters who do not currently participate at Eurovision — voted on the proposal. 673 voted against it, 400 supported it, and 113 abstained from voting. At the request of some members, the vote was secret so the voting choice of individual members is not known.

Milivoje Mihajlović, the assistant director of Radio Television Serbia — which does not support EBU membership of Kosovo — described the proposal as “a political move, that it is a political precedent.” He said, “It will harm peace in our region and the definition of the European Broadcasting Union to be a professional and not a political organisation.”

Mihajlović also noted that Kosovo’s RTK already had an agreement with the EBU and benefitted from many of the services that the EBU offers to its full members.

But while RTK does currently benefit from the EBU’s services, it is still unable to participate in the EBU’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Kosovo’s long journey

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. However, Kosovo’s status is still disputed internationally and in diplomatic practice. Extreme tensions — political and territorial — exist between the Serbian government and the Albanian leadership of the Assembly of Kosovo. One manifestation of these tensions was the Kosovo War, which lasted from the end of 1998 until the middle of 1999.

A number of states whose broadcasters are EBU members do not recognise Kosovo as an independent country. As well as Serbia, this also includes Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Moldova, Morocco, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Tunisia and Ukraine.

Since Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, its broadcaster has made it a goal to become part of the EBU and join the Eurovision family. Although it doesn’t yet have those rights, it did manage to participate in Eurovision Young Dancers in 2011. Fans have wondered if RTK could similarly be invited to the Song Contest as a non-member guest competitor.

In recent years, Kosovo has annually been named as a rumoured participant in the Eurovision Song Contest, but as RTK does not have membership of the EBU, they have never been able to enter.

However, Kosovars have competed in the competition before, albeit for other countries. Examples include Rona Nishliu for Albania in 2012 and Lindita Halimi for Albania in 2017. Most recently, Kosovo-born Serbian singer Nevena Božović competed for Serbia in Tel Aviv.

Read more Kosovo Eurovision news here

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4 years ago

Difference being that SBS, the Australian broadcaster of Eurovision, has been an associate member of the EBU since 1979 and had been showing Eurovision for over 30 years before being invited.