EU Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas has accused Eurovision bosses of handing a “win” to “enemies of Europe” with the decision to ban EU flags at the 2024 final.

News broke earlier this year that the song contest would be banning any flags being held up other than those of the countries competing in the competition. This included the show of Palestinian flags – amid the conflict in Gaza – and EU flags.

Now, speaking with Politico’s Brussels Playbook after Saturday’s finale (May 11), Schinas has described the move as “mind-blowing”, and criticised it as being ill-timed given next month’s European election and amid thousands of Georgian protesters gathering in Tbilisi in support of the democratic values the EU represents.

“I cannot find the logical explanation for why the EBU is doing this. And what does this serve? Less than a month from the European elections, who wins from banning the EU flag from Eurovision?” the commissioner said. “Only the Euroskeptics and the enemies of Europe.”

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A spokesperson for Commission President Ursula von der Leyen shared a similar sentiment, adding: “It is certainly regrettable to ban the flag that is the flag of all the EU members and other Council of Europe members taking part in the contest and often flies alongside national flags on public buildings.”

The Vice President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, speaks at the opening ceremony, on April 4, 2024, in Seville, Andalusia, Spain. CREDIT: Francisco J. Olmo/Europa Press via Getty Images

In response to the backlash, an EBU spokesperson has stated that the flag policy at the 2024 edition of the song contest was “the same as in 2023,” with fans only permitted to bring flags of “participating countries and the rainbow/pride flags.”

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That being said, Politico has highlighted that last year’s recording of the contest clearly showed EU flags in the audience, when the event was held in Liverpool.

Schinas concluded by stating that he would raise the matter with EBU management on today (May 13). “I will talk to them. I won’t let this pass,” he said. “I will seek explanations and clarifications.”

Switzerland won the contest in Malmö, Sweden, with contestant Nemo performing their song ‘The Code’. The victory came after they topped the jury vote and came in fifth in the public vote. The win marked the first for the country since Celine Dion picked up the win in 1988 with ‘Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi’. They are also the first non-binary winner in the competition’s history.

During their appearance at the post-show press conference, Nemo also criticised the way that the contest was run by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), making specific reference to their policy of not allowing non-binary flags into the arena.

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“I had to smuggle my flag in because Eurovision said no, but I did it anyway, so I hope some people did that too. But, I mean, come on, this is clearly a double standard.”

They also appeared to break the crystal winner’s trophy, and added: “The trophy can be fixed – maybe Eurovision needs fixing a little bit too, every now and then.”

 Nemo from Switzerland, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, attends the press conference after The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final at Malmö Arena on May 11, 2024 in Malmo, Sweden
Nemo from Switzerland, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, attends the press conference after The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final at Malmö Arena on May 11, 2024 in Malmo, Sweden. (Photo by Martin Sylvest Andersen/Getty Images)

Ireland’s contestant Bambie Thug also spoke out against the EBU during post-Eurovision interviews, claiming that they don’t fully represent “what Eurovision is”.

The Cork singer has faced significant challenges throughout the competition due to their pro-Palestinian stance. It was revealed they were forced to remove the words ‘ceasefire’ and ‘freedom for Palestine’ in a mediaeval script from their costume due to Eurovision’s political neutrality clause. A now-deleted TikTok showed Bambie reacting to the decision, telling the camera: “It’s fucked up”.

After the finale, they criticised the EBU in more direct terms and also revealed that the atmosphere around this year’s controversial edition of the contest had been “so hard and so horrible”.

“I’m so proud of Nemo winning,” they said. “I just want to say, we are what the Eurovision is. The EBU is not what the Eurovision is. Fuck the EBU. I don’t even care anymore. Fuck them. The thing that makes this is the contestants, the community behind it, the love and the power and the support of all of us is what is making change.”

They concluded: “The world has spoken. The queers are coming. Non-binaries for the fucking win.”

This year’s contest was dogged with controversy following the EBU’s decision to allow Israel to compete amongst the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The move was criticised as “cultural cover and endorsement for the catastrophic violence that Israel has unleashed on Palestinians” by organisations such as Queers for Palestine, who wrote an open letter to UK entry Olly Alexander to boycott the contest this year.

Over 1,000 Swedish artists called for Israel to be banned this year, such as Robyn, Fever Ray, and First Aid Kit, and artists such as Olly Alexander faced calls to boycott the event.

Yesterday (May 12), it was reported that Eurovision ratings apparently plunged amidst several controversies and boycott calls.

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