The upcoming Euro 2012 football championship, due to be held in Poland and Ukraine in June and July, has been causing political controversy recently. Relations between the EU and Ukraine have deteriorated since the Ukrainian opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, currently held in prison on charges of abuse of power during her time in office, claimed she had been beaten by prison guards in her cell and began a hunger strike on 20 April. Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the pro-Western “Orange Revolution” in 2004, lost the presidential elections in 2010 to the pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych. She argues the election was marred by voting irregularities, though international observers declared it honest and transparent. In late 2011, following what her supporters decry as a manipulated show trial, a Ukrainian court sentenced Tymoshenko to 7 years imprisonment (a sentence some consider to be politically motivated revenge from President Yanukovych).
Several European leaders have already cancelled their visits to Ukraine. Ministers from Germany, Austria and Belgium, along with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding, have said they will not be attending the European football championships in Ukraine next month. In addition, Germany is putting mounting pressure on Kiev over the issue by threatening to wreck an upcoming EU-Ukraine trade deal.
Is this a case of political repression or is the EU interferring in the legal system of another country? Commenting in November of last year on Debating Europe, Nikolai argued that:
The EU seems to care more about the fate of Ms Tymoshenko than the Ukrainian public. But then, the Ukrainian public know she is far from being a saint (like all Ukrainian politicians). In fact, few regard her as the champion of democracy she claims to be.
What do YOU think? Do you think a political boycott is a good idea? Would it help ensure transparency and protect human rights in Ukraine? Or is it a misguided attempt to interfere in another country’s affairs? Might it even encourage Ukraine to turn away from the EU and develop stronger relations with neighbouring Russia? Let us know your thoughts in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.
UPDATE: UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino has answered a video question sent in to Debating Europe about the political controversy surrounding Euro 2012. You can see the video below. Thanks to Euronews for posing the question on our behalf!