Following yet another disappointing result in the Eurovision Song Contest, President Sarkozy announced the creation of a study mission during the French Presidency to investigate the legality of returning countries to the former USSR.

France is not the only country to demonstrate concern at the lack of 'pop'-ularity. Other countries with disappointing results in recent years have suggested and implemented less drastic policy measures, including withdrawal from the contest (Italy), submitting Terry Wogan as an entry (UK), and mobilising the overseas Ausslieder vote (Germany).

MEPs on Monday called for structural funds to be released to redress the imbalance in victories for the larger, less-spangly nations. For their part, representatives from the new Member States offered to twin with less fortunate countries and train them in the lost arts of costume changes, fake tan and oblique references to communism.

It is thought that these soft policy proposals will cut no ice with the French leadership, which hopes to make its mark on Europe with the initiative. The move has broad-based support in France, where many of its inhabitants believe the crass, tacky entries from the East in recent years are destroying Europe's reputation as the continent of culture.

Dubbed the "Siberia Group", the team of legal experts, historians and statisticians will focus on two tasks in addition to the legitimacy question: quantifying France's chance of winning the Eurovision if former countries were to be re-merged with the borderline dictatorship, and establishing whether Russia actually wants them back.

A Spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture, Cheese and Gallic Shrugging stated that "we have already engaged in initial bilateral discussion with Prime Minister Putin, and so far the response has been positive. However, they have already stipulated that the deal is off if Timbaland can't produce next year's entry".

Some countries hope Ireland - one of the only EU-15 states to enjoy repeated success in recent years - will be able to broker a compromise deal which falls short of replacing the Iron Curtain. However, their lead negotiator may yet turn out to be a turkey.

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