Zelmerlöw, who won last year with his uplifting slide-guitar stomp ‘Heroes’, argued that Sweden had lost its moral status with last year's u-turn on refugees.
“We have shut the borders now, so I don’t know if there’s that much to be proud about,” Zelmerlöw, 29, said in an interview on Sweden's SVT broadcaster, alongside his co-presenter for this year's contest, the comedian Petra Mede.
The interview was published as SVT announced that the theme for this year's Eurovision Song Contest at Stockholm’s Globe Arena, be “Come Together”, and that viewers would be confronted with a thought-provoking dance performance, drawing attention to the refugee crisis.
“It is more necessary than ever before that we unite and join together, and that is literally what we do in Eurovision, where most of the countries in Europe meet together,” the website reads.
“We are paying attention to the situation and that’s something we are proud of,” said Sven Stojanovic, Eurovision’s content producer, of the planned dance number. “We want to make people think, and be left with something to reflect upon after seeing the performance.”
Zelmerlöw said that it would be wrong for Eurovision to ignore the events of last year.
“We obviously want to touch upon it: anything else would be to bury your head in the sand,” he said.
But he stressed that Eurovision was primarily “an entertainment program that is supposed to give people joy”. “I think it is important to touch it, but above all to try and convey hope,” he said.
His co-presenter Petra Mede, who was lauded across Europe for the wry way she hosted the event in 2013, agreed wholeheartedly.
“Everyone knows that it is a very tough situation in Europe right now,” she said. “We already know now that there’s going to be a dance number where this will be expressed with dancers. We want to give a picture of what’s going on, but there will also be a feeling of hope.”