What links Eurovision, EU mediation and riots on the streets of Skopje? Not much at first glance. It is still an odd coincidence that a scandal over this years contribution to the Eurovision song contest by Macedonia and major riots in Skopje occur at the same time these days. The song “Empire” by Esma Redzepova and Vlatko Lozanovski (aka Lonzano) is at first glance the class kitschy pop that works well at the Eurovision song contest (although definitely not the caliber to do particularly well there). The lyrics are banal, but what to expect from ESC song:
Odam,cekoram po nebo, I walk, I walk through the skies,
Letam jas niz vremeto, I fly through the times,
I koga zaspivam, And when I fall asleep,
Pesni jas sonuvam I dream of music
Ejgidi more dejgidi,
Nasi pesni ubavi Our beautiful songs
Zivotot e muzika, Life is music
Nasata imperija Our Empire
Imperija,imperija, Empire, Empire,
Muzika caruva na zemjata, Music rules on earth
Imperija,imperija, Empire, Empire
Najmokna sila na planetata Most powerful force on the planet
Koga spie cela vselena, When the whole universe sleeps,
Peam vo nokite, I sing in the nights,
Gi dopiram svezdite I reach for the stars,
So krilja na notite With wings of musical notes.
[the video of the original song imperija has been deleted and is now been purged from cyberspace and replaced by the new song, F.B. 19.3.2013]
Of course from the lyrics it is clear that the empire they are singing about is music. However, the link between a video clip that looks like a promotion of the controversial Skopje 2014 building program and references to “Empire” with images of the statue of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian Arc de Triomph do evoke not only musical empires. So unsurprisingly some media in Greece took offense (‘ONCE AGAIN FYR MACEDONIA PROVOKES GREECE’ and a moronic comment by the Greece ESC participant Agathonas Iakovides: “The Greek history cannot be insulted by anyone I am Greek from head to toe”), as did Bulgaria and Esma and Lonzano cancelled their trip to Bulgaria. Luckily Germany did not protest over the video showing a monument that looks a lot like the Brandenburg gate & Siegessäule in miniature or France (and Romania) for the depiction of an obvious copy of the Arc de Triomphe or the Bucharest Arcul de Triumf.
Also domestically, the video came under extensive criticism for showing off Skopje 2014 project that is rejected by many as kitschy, wasteful and nationalist. The combined international and domestic protests thus made the MRT withdraw the clip as “it did not comply with the broadcasters requirements.” In its stead, some really funny spoofs popped up, the one being the clip below, a wonderfully cut duet of Darth Vader and Jabba the Hut
[unfortunately this spoof has been deleted for copyright infringement, F.B. 19.3.2013]
So what does this silly story have to do with the unrest that has been going on in Skopje in the days since Talat Xhaferi, a former NLA commander, was named Minister of Defense or the mediation of the EU in Macedonia a few days ago over the opposition boycott of parliament and the threat to boycott elections?
The current government has maneuvered the country in a very difficult and volatile situation. The unrest first by Macedonian war veterans against Xhaferis nomination, followed by Albanian counter protests demonstrate the volatility of Macedonia and the risks of playing with nationalism in an environment were few of the underlying prejudice and segregation has been tackled. Instead, the ruling VRME-DPMNE has been combining its nation building strategy with accommodating the largest Albanian party–a double act that seems to be running out of steam. At the same time, the opposition boycott and EU intervention is reminiscent of the polarization that has plagued neighboring Albania for more than a decade and is both a sign of weakness of the opposition and the government. Finally, the Eurovision ‘scandal’ (the only real scandal or rather sad part of the story is that Esma Redzepova is one of the two singing the song) signals either naivete or willful confrontation the current Macedonian government seems to be good at provoking Greece and Bulgaria. These three dimensions–rising nationalist confrontation, polarization of the main parties that requires external mediation and continued confrontation with Greece–cannot be good news for Macedonia and filming a new video clip is the least of all troubles coming from all of this.