Leading article: Going for a song

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The economics of the Eurovision Song Contest, the final of which takes place in Oslo tonight, have long run counter to the prestige (if that is the right word) associated with winning it.

The trouble lies in the fact that the winning country then has to bear the cost of hosting next year's contest. Even when the good times were rolling, the TV bosses in Ireland kept their fingers crossed that they would not win again, only to have to break into forced smiles when they did. Now, with Poland the sole European Union member state that did not experience recession last year, there is a case for an austerity song contrast, modelled perhaps on the 1948 London Olympics, with cost-cutting made a virtue.

The contest may, however, hold a clue to another way forward for Europe: expand the EU. A total of 39 nations entered this year's Eurovision. The EU has just 27 states. Why not reverse the old practice where old EU members subsidised the new ones and get the new members to pay the debts of the old? Come in Albania, and bring your chequebook.

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