From Eurovision to the European Parliament: 3 contestants who made the big leap

The Strasbourg University Orchestra playing at a plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. [PARLIAMENT/ANSOTTE]

Nana, Iva, and Dana: three singers whose voices have resonated from the stage of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) to the plenary of the European Parliament.

Eurovision is renowned for launching careers.

Just think of Swedish band ABBA, who won the contest in 1974, the 20-year-old Celine Dion, who sang for Switzerland in 1988, or Italian rock band Måneskin, who went on to experience global success after winning last year’s edition, topping music charts both sides of the Atlantic.

In the 1958 edition, singer Domenico Modugno competed with ‘Nel blu dipinto di blu’, arguably the most popular Italian song ever.

Some contestants over the years, however, have managed to use the platform to launch themselves into more than just musical success – and landed themselves seats in the European Parliament.

Commissioner Dalli: Eurovision ‘undisputed element’ of European shared cultural identity

Artistic events bring people together, overcoming divisions and barriers, and as such, the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is an “undisputed element” of the European shared cultural identity, which could this year help renew the call for peace on the continent, according to Maltese EU Commissioner Helena Dalli.

Nana Mouskouri: the Greek globetrotter

Greek singer Nana Mouskouri represented Luxembourg at the 1963 Eurovision held in London with the song ‘À force de prier’, sung in French, ending up with an honourable eighth place.

An authentic polyglot, Mouskouri has released over 200 albums, singing in at least 12 languages, from her mother tongue, Greek, to French, German, Italian, Dutch, English and even Welsh and Corsican.

She became a music legend not only in her native country but also in the UK: between the years of 1968 and 1976, she hosted her own television show on the British public broadcaster, the BBC.

As an MEP, she spent one mandate in the fourth parliamentary term (1994-1999) sitting in the ranks of Greece’s centre-right party Nea Dimokratia as a member of both cultural and women’s rights committees, continuing to be the Parliament’s rapporteur for the Culture 2000 Programme, one of the first EU instruments for cultural cooperation.

She is most remembered for having filed what could be the most lyrical amendment ever.

“Whereas in Greek mythology, Ariadne gave Theseus the thread with which he found his way out of the labyrinth and the Ariane programme for translation might therefore be the thread with which people could acquire a better knowledge of the history and culture of each of the member states and especially of the countries with less widely-known languages,” the amendment reads.

As a polyglot, she strongly advocated for multilingualism and against the monopoly of the English language in international computerized information networks to avoid non-English speaking EU citizens’ exclusion from the embryonic information society.

Iva Zanicchi: Ligonchio’s eagle

In 1969, the singer Iva Zanicchi won the Sanremo festival – a prestigious Italian music contest that also qualifies for the Eurovision Song Contest – with ‘Zingara’, one of the most memorable melodies in Italian music.

Her record company, wanting to take advantage of the international exposure granted by the Eurovision, compelled her to compete with another (ultimately less memorable) song, landing her in thirteenth place at the 1969 ESC held in Madrid.

Undeterred by her lack of winning, Zanicchi went on to have a long successful career in Italy, where she is still considered one of the greatest voices in pop music.

She again took part in Sanremo this year at the age of 82, receiving a standing ovation from the audience at the end of every performance.

Armed with such popularity, Zanicchi was among the picks of controversial media mogul Silvio Berlusconi’s political strategy of presenting candidates with no political background in national and European election races.

She ran in the European elections in 1999 with no success and then again in 2004, becoming the first non-elected representative of her constituency and ultimately taking over from another MEP who opted for a seat in the national Parliament in 2008.

In 2009, she was elected MEP again, going on to become vice-president of the development committee (DEVE) during her 5-year mandate. She had an over 97% attendance rate at the Parliament’s plenary session, the highest for an Italian MEP in that legislature.

Like Mouskouri, Zanicchi brought her experience of the musical stage to the political one: in her time as an MEP, the Italian singer also opposed proposals for new methods of paying royalties on internet content, a position considered closed to the European records industry.

Dana Scallon: the ‘winning’ MEP

Before winning a seat in the European Parliament in 1999, Irish singer Dana Scallon won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970, performing ‘All Kinds of Everything’ perched on a stool under the bright lights in the Netherlands at the age of 18.

But forget the schoolgirl singing of “snowdrops and daffodils, butterflies and bees”: as MEP, she adopted an extremely conservative and eurosceptic stance.

She ran as an independent and refused association with any political party, strongly campaigning in favour of family values and pro-life arguments, opposing abortion in all cases.

As an MEP, she was a member of the regional affairs committee and rapporteur for the INTERBUS agreement on the international carriage of passengers by coach and bus.

She also ran twice for the Irish presidential election in 1997 and 2011.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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