Over the last few years the Eurovision Song Contest has become an arena for political-musical confrontation. In 2009, the competition was marked by controversy over the provocatively entitled Georgian entry, “We don’t wanna put in” — an alleged allusion to the all-powerful Russian leader — which was finally withdrawn under pressure from Moscow and the EBU (European Broadcasting Union). And this year’s event has already given rise to tensions, with Armenia refusing to take part due to political differences [over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region] with host country Azerbaijan.

Adopting a more down-to-earth approach, Montenegro has decided to make its participation in the event [to take place 22-26 May], which is watched by 160 million television viewers, a springboard for the promotion of its economy. Following a year of absence prompted by the recession, the Montenegrins are hoping that their entry will boost tourism, a key sector in Montenegro’s economy, which last year earned the country approximately 670 million euros.

Balkan clichés and European stereotypes

In the provocative and modish, "Euro neuro”, singer Rambo Amadeus expresses his vision of Balkan-European Union relations in lyrics which are largely delivered in staccato English with occasional lines in German. The typically ramboesque turbo-funk sound, recorded in Ljubljana under the direction of Slovenian singer-songwriter Magnifico, also lists the many qualities that modern, pro-European Balkan man can offer the new Europe, which he is preparing to enter on the back of his donkey.

Naturally, all of these preoccupations figure large in the video, directed with humorous panache by Slovenian artist Miha Knific, which presents a succession of Montenegrin tourist destinations, as well as a stereotypical images of food markets, nightclubs and attractive women, who keep Rambo and his donkey company while they savour the delights of luxury swimming pools and Montenegro’s many beaches. At the end of the clip [at 2 minutes 58 seconds], there is even an insightful allusion to the current European debt crisis.

With an approach that makes clever use of irony on several levels, Rambo cocks a snook not just at clichés in the Balkans, but also at the stereotypical views of the region which hold sway elsewhere in Europe. Had his concept not found funding from Montenegro’s main broadcaster, the national tourist office, and the country’s wine growers’ union, it might just as well have been financed by the European Union.

An illustrative instruction

Given his attitude to the Eurovision and trash culture in general, Rambo’s irony is hardly surprising, but what is remarkable is the manner in which he has been able to mobilise support from unexpected quarters. In a recent political-diplomatic TV debate, which followed the presentation of the Eurovision entry, Rambo’s song was warmly praised by the head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Leopold Maurer, who described it as an apt illustration of the atmosphere of EU-Montenegro negotiations. In response to Maurer’s promise that he would play “Euro neuro” for colleagues so as to enable them to “gain a better understanding of the perception of Europe in the Balkans,” Rambo remarked, in typical impish style, that if the song pleased him so much he could always arrange for it to win the competition in Baku.

Although “Euro neuro” stands little chance of coming first in this year’s contest, it has highlighted an original approach which may be imitated in Eurovisions to come. If musical quality is no longer the focus of attention, the contest can at least serve as an advertisement for lesser known countries, and the Montenegrins have done well to select an entry that does just that.