That's not true. At the time, the countries with the lowest average of results in the last five years were barred from competing the following year and could only come back two years later (those were the only one show days). That's what happened to Finland, Macedonia, Romania and Switzerland who had to sit out in 1999 but came back in 2000. Likewise that was the reason why Austria, Denmark, Iceland and Bosnia-Herzegovina didn't compete in 1998 but came back that year. Russia was also barred from competing in 1999 because they didn't broadcast ESC 1998 even if they didn't take part that year, because those were the EBU rules at the time (the same thing happened to Greece in 2000 because they didn't broadcast ESC 1999). Hungary was the only country that openly withdrew which, along with Latvia postponing their debut to 2000, allowed Portugal to take part in that year.