Russia and two of its former Soviet Union members, Belarus and Kazakhstan, have turned their Eurovision voting bloc into a lucrative Eurasian trade alliance. Formally created today in the Kazakh capital of Astana after two decades of talks between the nations, the Eurasian Economic Union is a trading bloc of 170 million people designed to rival the European Union and the United States.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the three countries would “gradually align” their currency and monetary policies, reports Bloomberg’s Ilya Arkhipov and Nariman Gizitdinov; he had previously pushed for Ukrainian membership of the union, but they've since dropped out. While three countries don't make much of a bloc right now, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia are also seeking to join by the end of 2014.
The new trade alliance is strikingly similar to the well-established voting bloc in the annual Eurovision Song Contest that includes Russia and her former satellite states. As William Adams, founder of Eurovision news site WiWi Bloggs, pointed out, “Everyone pays allegiance and homage to the mother Russia still. Russia could show up without a song and they could still make the final.” Kyrgyzstan doesn't take part in Eurovision, and Kazakhstan has repeatedly been denied entry because it’s not part of the European Broadcasting Union, the organization that runs Eurovision, though they’re currently in negotiations to join.
Because of this teamwork between Russia, Armenia, and Belarus, the Russians (whose controversial entry this year was a crisis-deflecting pair of 17-year-old blonde twins) are always guaranteed to do well. Armenia’s entry was pegged as the favorite to win this year. But while the the Belarusian entry, ‘Cheesecake,’ is infuriatingly catchy, it didn’t deserve the inflated points it received — a testament to the blind allegiance Eurovision creates.
After reviewing this year’s Eurovision’s grand final results, the predictable voting bloc was clearly at play. Remember: 12, 10, and 8 points are the top three points that can be awarded, and the rankings are the combined score of televoting and the national jury vote. Here are a breakdown of the results.:
- Ranked first by Belarus, third by Armenia.
- Gave 12 points to Belarus, 8 points to Armenia.
- Ranked first by Russia, second by Armenia.
- Gave 12 point to Russia, 10 points to Armenia.
- Ranked second by Russia, third by Belarus.
- Gave 10 points to Russia, 8 points to Belarus.
After Conchita’s victory, some conservative Russia politicians were outraged, with Communist Party deputy Valery Rashkin calling for a “straight” version of the historically gay-friendly competition. Advisers to Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko quickly chimed in with their support for the creation of a “Voice of Eurasia” competition that would place an emphasis on “moral values.” In a statement, Belarus’ advisory Slavic Committee said, “We do not need Europe!”
Now it looks like their wish for a union, albeit a non-musical, economic one, has been granted. The new trade pact is also a boon for the region’s energy industry. The Moscow Times’ Alexander Panin reports that the combined territory is a “hydrocarbon treasury,” with a fifth of the world’s natural gas resources, and 15 percent of all oil reserves. Just give it a few years, and a few more countries, before the singing starts.