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Romania Won’t Win Eurovision 2016, Because They’re Banned from Performing

Romania has been banned from Eurovision 2016 for failing to repay debt.

Contestants take the stage during the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) on May 19, 2015 in Vienna. The final of the 60th Eurovision Song Contest with 27 nations competing takes place on May 23. AFP PHOTO / DIETER NAGL        (Photo credit should read DIETER NAGL/AFP/Getty Images)
Contestants take the stage during the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) on May 19, 2015 in Vienna. The final of the 60th Eurovision Song Contest with 27 nations competing takes place on May 23. AFP PHOTO / DIETER NAGL (Photo credit should read DIETER NAGL/AFP/Getty Images)

Since Romania began participating in the beloved Eurovision singing contest in 1994, the poor, underdeveloped central European country has made it to the finals but never won. Looks like 2016 won’t be their year either: the European Broadcasting Union claims Televiziunea Romana, Romania’s public broadcaster, owes them more than $16 million, and has banned them from participating in the yearly event.

This year’s contest will be held in Sweden in May, and the EBU said this week that it asked the Romanian government to repay its debt by April 20. Romania did not come through, and the EBU — which represents 73 public service broadcasters — said it couldn’t afford to continue providing services to Romania without payment and had no choice but to disqualify Romania’s contestant, pop star Ovidiu Anton, and halt broadcasting to the country.

“It is regrettable that we are forced to take this action,”said EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre. “We are disappointed that all our attempts to resolve this matter have received no response from the Romanian government.

Close to 40 countries participate most years, and each entrant must submit an artist’s original song as its contestant. The songs are performed on live television and radio, and viewers and listeners then vote the top acts into the semi-finals and finals. Hundreds of millions of people across Europe and the world tune into the televised broadcast, which draws more attention than many international sporting events and helps launch relatively unknown European singers into international stardom. (Romania’s failure to pay back its debt to the EBU could also jeopardize the ability of Romanians to tune into the World Cup soccer competition this summer, as well.)   

Anton, the 24-year-old Romanian contestant, was slated to perform his song  “Moment of Silence” at the contest, but wrote on his personal website that he has indeed been banned from performing. “I am trying to smile and not get carried away, but it is unfair,” he wrote. “I am still the same, same honest artist, same fighter that won fare [sic] and square both from the jury and from the public’s vote, but yet, I have to declare I have been ‘defeated.’ By whom? Why? Fair? I don’t know how to put it nicely, so I abstain.”

The EBU has confirmed that Anton’s song will remain on the pre-ordered CDs. Watch a video of an earlier performance of the track below:

Photo credit: DIETER NAGL/AFP/Getty Images

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