Azerbaijan

♦ Backroom political pressure has kept drone funding intact despite doubts over reliability.
♦ The war in Syria is turning out to be good business for people smugglers.
♦ Israel is set to approve a Gaza gasfield deal, though there is scepticism about the likely success of the plan.
♦ An election app in Azerbaijan accidentally released results before voting actually started

It’s a competition with some questionable talent, scorned for its lack of taste, and yet the Eurovision Song Contest has an audience of 125m and brings pundits out in force to discuss what it says about the state of Europe today. With this year’s final coming up this Saturday in Malmö, Sweden, we give you the best pieces on how it works and why Europeans care, so that you can mingle with confidence at Eurovision parties.

 

In our Reporting Back series, we ask FT foreign correspondents to tell us about a recent trip.

Courtney Weaver, a correspondent for the FT in Moscow, visited Azerbaijan ahead of the Eurovision song contest – the final of which is being held in the country’s capital, Baku, on Saturday.

Why now? The fact that Azerbaijan is hosting Eurovision this year has shone a light on the Caspian country of 9 million people – and in particular, its human rights record. The event itself is typically a festival of kitsch in which contestants from 41 European countries, clad in sequins and tights, sing their hearts out for their nation. Azerbaijan has embraced the contest as a chance to shape the West’s opinion of the country and what defines it.