Euro-2012 As Political Weapon – OpEd


By Andrei Smirnov

The EU is boycotting Kiev. The leaders of several EU countries have refused to come to the summit on Central Europe in Yalta this month. They are also urging European politicians not to attend the football matches of Euro-2012 which will be held in Ukraine in June. This reaction has come after the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko claimed that she had been beaten in jail and launched a hunger strike.

During the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko the EU was making only condemning remarks. The same reaction followed the verdict to the former Prime Minister who was sentenced to seven years in prison for power abuse when signing gas contracts with Russia. European patience was stretched to the limit only after the publication of photos showing Tymoshenko’s bruises. First it was Germany’s new president, the former human right activists Joachim Gauck who canceled his visit to Yalta. His example was followed by the Presidents of the Czech republic, Slovenia, Italy and Austria.

But the boycott of the Yalta summit may become not the most serious challenge for the Ukrainian authorities. Soon after that, several leading politicians in a row including the head of the European commission Jose Manuel Barroso urged the European countries to boycott the Ukrainian part of the European Football Cup which is to start on June 8.

Despite the fact that his national team, the team of Portugal, is to play all three matches of the Cup’s qualification stage in Kharkov and Lvov, Barroso said he would not go to Ukraine to attend the matches and would ignore all the events organized by Ukraine on the occasion of the European Cup.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel also supported the head of the European Commission. A spokesman for her administration said Merkel’s visit to Ukraine will depend on the fate of Yulia Tymoshenko.

The reaction to the appeals of the leading politicians regarding Ukraine is mixed, Peter Schultze, the professor of political sciences at the Goettingen University told the “Voice of Russia”.

“In Europe the reactions to Merkel’s statement were mixed. Austria, Italia, Switzerland and some other countries supported her, while France and England reacted more calmly.”

Besides the teams of Germany and Portugal, the teams of the Netherlands, Denmark, France, England, Sweden are also to play in Lvov and Kharkov. The teams which are to play in Poland are unlikely to attract a huge number of fans. These are the teams of Ireland, Croatia and the Czech Republic and also of Greece, Spain and Italy, which are gripped by the economic crisis.

In general, the preparations for Euro-2012 are not going smoothly. First there was a scandal around the room prices in Ukrainian hotels, which soared ten times. The recent terrorist attacks in Dnepropetrovsk made many European fans give back their flight tickets. And now it is the threat of boycotting the matches which is becoming more and more real. The President of the Spanish football federation Angel Maria Villar has proposed that the UEFA management transfer the 2012 Euro from Ukraine to Spain. This means that Ukraine may lose hundreds of millions of euros which it expects to receive from German, British and French football fans.

Political analysts say that the goal of this campaign to force the Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanuckovich to make concessions in the case of Tymoshenko. If Kiev believes that Brussels is serious about the transfer of Euro-2012, it may compromise. For example, Kiev may allow Tymoshenko to go to Germany for medical treatment. But so far Kiev is counting on the support of the European football authorities calling UEFA’s president Michel Platini its “friend and reliable partner”.


VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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