From our special correspondent in Turin (Italy)
An apparently innocent gesture that took on an enormous dimension. This Sunday evening, the opening ceremony of Eurovision 2022 took place at the Royal Palace of Venaria, twenty minutes north of Turin. The forty participating delegations marched on the turquoise carpet (the emblematic color of one of the main sponsors of the competition), answered questions from the media who were waiting for them on the spot and posed for the photographers.
Andrea Koevska, the representative of North Macedonia, did not deviate from this traditional photo session. After a few moments, the 22-year-old singer took off her flag to be more free of her movements. Smiling, she tossed it and dragged it to the ground before standing in front of the goals.
“She had no respect for a national symbol”
And this caused controversy. The Macedonian channel MPT, which broadcasts the contest and oversees the delegation, issued a press release during the trial to “condemn the outrageous attitude” of the artist who, she wrote, “showed no respect for a national symbol, that is punishable by law.”
The public media demanded that Andrea Koevska “apologize to the public” and even mentioned the possibility of an outright withdrawal from the competition. “All legal remedies will be used against those responsible for this scandal within the delegation,” the statement concluded.
Less than two hours later, the MPT uploaded a video of Andrea Koevska appearing, flag in hand, explaining that she “had no intention of offending [sa] nation” and that she had simply complied with the photographers’ request to take pictures without the flag, thus lifting the ban on this outburst of national pride.
This isn’t the first time an artist representing North Macedonia in the Eurovision Song Contest has been accused of undermining the nation. Last year Vasil Garvanliev had to explain himself, because in the clip of his song Here I am, he appeared in front of a work by Janeta Vangeli, consisting of a monochrome white, another green and a third red. Some of his compatriots saw it as a reference to the Bulgarian flag. However, relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia are under the sign of more or less latent tensions, with the former vetoing the integration of the latter into the European Union. The singer, who has dual Macedonian and Bulgarian nationality, had delivered a second version of his clip, without the controversial plan. In a video posted on Facebook, he said: “I don’t apologize for who I am. I will never. However, if I’ve hurt anyone in any way, from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry. Excuse me. †
In 2019, at Eurovision, Tamara Todevska was the pride of North Macedonia by finishing first in the national juries’ voting before finishing in an honorable seventh place. A few weeks later, she was invited to sing the national anthem at the US embassy in Skopje, but she omitted a verse referring to revolutionary figures. There was then a lively controversy, which forced her to justify herself. “They thought I was paid” [ne pas chanter cette partie], she explained to the site Wiwiblogs in late 2019. I made a mistake in the lyrics and the hatred started. They hated me so much. When it was the time I should have been happy with what happened [à l’Eurovision] and proud of myself I found myself within four walls wondering what was wrong with me. †
The story of a name…
North Macedonia, independent since the implosion of Yugoslavia in 1991, first declared its independence as the “Republic of Macedonia”. However, Greece opposed it because Macedonia is the name of the largest region. It was therefore under the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that the young state became a member of the UN in 1993… and five years later Eurovision Song Contest.
His track record in the song contest is not exactly brilliant and only consists of places at the bottom of the second half of the ranking. And again, when its performers managed to reach the final – which was not the case between 2013 and 2018. In 2019, after finding common ground with Greece, the country took its current name: North Macedonia. That year Tamara Todevska therefore offered her her very first top 10. “It would be naive to think that it would be a coincidence if Macedonia, when it first entered Eurovision with the new name pacified, returns not only to the final after so many years, but also to achieve the best result in its history: 305 points . Including one from Greece,” says Giacomo Natali in his book Understanding Eurovision (not published in French).
Andrea Koevska was set to participate in the second Eurovision semifinal, which will be broadcast live from Turin on Culturebox (channel 14) on Thursday from 9 p.m. His song is called circles†