Euro 2012 In Ukraine: Geopolitical Football – Analysis
By Anastasiya Pershkina and Pyotr Iskanderov
The EU Foreign Ministers will meet on May 14 in Brussels to decide whether to boycott Euro 2012 games hosted by Ukraine or not.
This will be a verdict rather for Ukraine than for football.
Twenty seven members of the Euro Commission, including its head Jose Manuel Barroso, have already refused to go to the event due to the case of the jailed ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko. The officials are concerned with human rights in Ukraine and Tymoshenko’s health as the latter claims abuse by prison guars.
However, Ukraine will still host the event.
This is the first time since a boycott of the 1980 Moscow and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by the US and the USSR when sports is tangled with politics.
Europe is now trying to show that Ukraine is no longer its privileged partner and key player in the 2008 Eastern Partnership program. Euro integration trends have recently weakened and some countries turned to Russia which doesn’t make Europe happy, says the head of the Euro Security Department of the Institute for European Studies, Dmitry Danilov.
“Europe failed to choose the direction of integration for Ukraine while the latter failed to follow it. I find the boycott an attempt to put pressure on Ukraine, its President Yanukovich and his government.”
The boycott was initiated by Germany which, being one of top EU countries, is trying to strengthen its positions while another leader, France, is having its political course changed by the newly elected Socialist President Francois Hollande. Timing is perfect for Germany to take the lead and it began to move in this direction already in late 2011 having pronounced its independent vision of the EU economic policy during discussions over a new budgetary pact. The Berlin-Paris-London strategic triangle was restructured.
Shortly after, German politicians toughened their rhetoric on common European issues, says the head of the Center for German studies Vladislav Belov.
“I think this was Berlin’s reaction to criticism from the UK and a number of EU member states. Germany wanted to show its strength and readiness to implement all its projects. Angela Merkel, in her turn, began to act like a tough bundeskanzlerin.”
Many Ukrainians think that their country is the victim of geopolitical games and will be challenged not only by European football teams.
Big political game has just begun and will continue after the Euro 2012 with Ukraine’s foreign policy course as a trophy.