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!

43 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Narin Cross

    no…lots of country needs sorting out…if they allow people from other country to visit and settle, then they should respect other countries human rights……They can’t just use people…

  2. avatar
    Narin Cross

    people tends to go back into their own country and do the same back (an eye for an eye) it needs to STOP…

  3. avatar
    Lazaros Kalaitzidis

    Since when does the EU tie football with politics? It is strictly forbiden by the UEFA and FIFA regulations.

    Moreover, why do you pose a question without the least info? Who is Tymoshenko, what has she done as President and why is she in custody? Reading the article the argumentation all i see is “some say”, “her supporters describe” etc etc.

    The solution is simple. If you want to …play with Russia, play fair. No more sanction and wars against sovereign countries for “humanitarian reasons” or “human rights”. Especially within Europe. Of course the best solution would be to make finacial peace with Russia and stop this crap which is going on the last 10 years but i know i ask a lot.

    My logic says that since the people of Ukraine have voted against her in elections that were transparent (according to international officials) there is no reason at all for any sanctions.

  4. avatar
    Dirk Weimer

    No, they should not!! There are a lot of ways to demonstrate the european opinion. Economic ways, ways in politics and more. And please remind the regency of Julia Timoschenko … She wasn’t that kind we try to see it nowadays. But she has to get any needed medical treatment in spite of that

  5. avatar
    Debating Europe

    Hi Lazaros! Point taken: we’ll try to include more background information in future. However, we have qualified most of the statements (“some say”, etc.) because Debating Europe tries to remain neutral. We aim to be a forum for discussion, rather than arguing for or against a particular view.

  6. avatar
    Lazaros Kalaitzidis

    I really hope that this principle of neutrality is true and will remain your first priority. You can understand my reluctance since almost all of the NGO’s and information we get is one-sided. There has to be a come back to reality, the emergence of the social media has played a huge role on discovering what is called the real reality and not what we were fed by the media till recently (for example lies to convince people not to object our attack against Serbia for Kosovo, or our intervention in Afghanistan, or our imminent intervention against Iran -which i hope that will not finally take place). We do not feel represented by a Europe like that.

    Wars, or sanctions, just impose more and more misery on local populations, they don’t serve any humanitarian or human rights purpose.

  7. avatar
    Xavier Schoumaker

    Not for Tymoshenko, justice is justice, she shoudln’t have been corrupted by the Russians (neither should the current regime).

  8. avatar
    Miguel Boelen

    Why so suddenly (one month before the start of EURO 2012) concerned with human rights in Ukraine? This issue was known for years already. So they should have made it an issue back then. It’s a bit hypocrite to make it an issue right now and probably when EURO 2012 is over, nobody will care about it again. Furthermore, the past and the present have pointed out that boycotts of nations or sport events hardly ever worked.

  9. avatar
    Melinda Vass

    Human rights are very important apart from the fact in which country the relevant case is, but in my opinion boycott isn’t the real solution, the politicians and leaders have to talk about it instead of stay far away from Euro 2012.

  10. avatar
    MandyandPj Leneghan

    I believe that Lazaros is on the right track and in a fairly diplomatic manner, well more diplomatic than I. There is far more to this Ukraine issue than some or any concern for Tymoshenko, my logic is points me along the lines of attempted regime changes and installing puppet governments. Given that scenario and as Lazaros has already indicated/implied, that the EU cannot sink any lower when it comes to attacking innocent civilians via sanctions and direct support for military interventions, logic dictates that there are scores of European politicians that should be keeping Tymoshenko company and in most cases via the ICC as well as facing charges of sedition and treason on a European level. Is it in the interests of Europeans to continue to maintain US nuclear military power in Europe? Is it in the interests of Europeans that US military power, via NATO is maintained in Europe and is it in the interests of Europeans that the EU enthusiastically and voluntarilly supports the US in its attempts on global military domination, especially this build up of wmd aka defensive systems that are clearly designed as a war like manouvre against Russia, who are (partly) European and China? Logic dictates that this situation is clearly not in any shape or form, in the interests of Europeans, now or ever. The question then is, WHY is this happening? Why is there interference against the Ukrainian judiciary and not, for example against the judiciary in the UK where we have young citizens thrown in prison for making foolish comments on facebook or renditioned to the US when no European/UK laws are broken. Exactly what is going on here? As for Euro 2012, who really cares? Serve Europe or immigrate to the US is what I say and take their WMD with you…pj

  11. avatar
    Hasan Ozdemir

    Hello, yes,of course EU leaders should boycott in my opinion.İt will useful absoluetly.Because the lost of money affect all of Goverments.To ensure transparency and protect human rights we only have a way any more that the afraid of lost money.Best wishes,

  12. avatar
    Jesper Hagen

    I think this just highlights the high level of hypocrisy politicians are capable of. The Euro 2012 is a convenient way for western politicians to give an impression to the domestic public that they care about things like human rights. Did anyone boycott the Olympics in China? Football championships are a celebration and something that truly connects people and cultures(cliche but true). It is a great opportunity to visit Ukraine, see the country and engage with its people in a friendly and celebratory atmosphere. If the EU truly believe in increasing people-to-people contacts in Ukraine as the way forward for european integration, they shouldnt politiscize a sporting event, let alone one of the worlds biggest.

    If Berlin is so conscious of the situation in Ukraine, may I suggest for example trade restrictions(They are quite fond of German products such as BMW`s, Audi`s and Mercedes` there)? If they truly cared about Ms Tymoschenko, they should have done something about this months ago(she has been imprisoned since October 2011), not on the eve of the championship trying to discredit all the hard work so many have put in to prepare the championship in Ukraine.

    Politics will be politics and sports will be sports. Regardless of how the EU relates to Euro 2012, there are still significant obstacles with the Association Agreement, and this will continue to be the case regardless of what happens before, and after Euro 2012.

    Besides, I am sure Mr Yanukovich can live with himself without Angela Merkel and the others in the stands during the matches. It is not on this EU-Ukraine relations depends. A boycott of a sports event will have no effect whatsoever on these relations, and most likely none on the human rights situation in Ukraine in the longterm.

    • avatar
      Mogens Kirkeby

      Did anyone boycott the Olympics in China?
      Actually yes! The Polish president, the French President and Angela Merkel.

  13. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    As I am quoted in the main article, as I live in Ukraine and am a fairly regular commentator I suppose I should write something.

    Firstly it is a lot easier for the European Commission to boycott Ukraine as they do not represent any national team in the tournament. Whether they go or stay, they will not face being kicked out office via democratic vote directly as a result of public will.

    If Ms Merkel stays away on the grounds that fellow EPP member Ms Tymoshenko is in jail, and yet the German team not only take part but win the tournament (which they may very well do), how will the German voters react when the Chancellor is not present to watch a German sporting victory?

    Which is more important to the German voter come election time?

    Not an issue for those appointed (rather than elected) in the European Commission who represent no nationality.

    Secondly, even if every European leader of any shape or form (EU or national) stayed away, it will not bring about Ms Tymoshenko’s release. Therefore waving a this stick at the current leadership of Ukraine will not work to achieve that result.

    The leadership of Ukraine has been snubbed by the EU before within the last 12 months which was promptly followed by a snub to the EU leadership by that of Ukraine regarding visits in both directions.

    If the EU leaders think that this action will make the Ukrainian leadership release her then they are absolutely clueless. It is the wrong stick to threaten with as there are no lasting consequences with a 6 week tournament of which only half takes place on Ukrainian soil. It will be quickly forgotten by the Ukrainian public who don’t even know who most of the European Commissioners are.

    Next, given that the EU has all but given up with the dysfunctional opposition (as has the electorate) and has made direct engagement with Ukrainian society the central plank of its EaP strategy, failure to be attend and be amongst that society it is supposedly now trying to engage with, stands a reasonable chance of being somewhat counterproductive.

    The EU and national Foreign Ministers also need to stop calling Kyiv, “Kiev”. “Kiev” is the Russian spelling for the Ukrainian capital. Kyiv is the Ukrainian spelling for the Ukrainian capital and it does grate on quite a large part of the population. Both Stefan Fule and Carl Bildt used “Kiev” in their twitter in the past 2 days. Not the best way to engage with a population by irritating it to start with. – Both men should know better!

    The next issue that is quite apparent to the Ukrainian population is that nobody in all the EU and sovereign statements are stating she is innocent. All decry the “due process” as unfair, but none say she is innocent of what she was jailed for. This has not gone unnoticed.

    How the EU will cope with the next investigation into Ms Tymoshenko’s dodgy dealing as owner of United Energy Systems Ukraine and her Cypriot shell company Somalli Enterprises remains to be seen. Her business partner Ex-Prime Minister Lazarenko was jailed for 9 years in the US for money laundering spun through her two companies. The US court documents are on line and name her and both her companies. Surely there is good reason to investigate that now she no longer has the absolute immunity that Ukrainian MPs have from the law?

    You would also question why and how the original investigation into her UESU/Somalli Ent investigations were closed when she became Prime Minister in 2005? – Coincidence?

    Returning to human rights, why is the EU Commission not staying away over the 80+ Somali asylum seekers held indefinitely in Ukraine, not far from the EU border (which was their destination)? They have been there far longer than Ms Tymoshenko has been in jail or even went to trial. They are stuck in Ukraine because of an EU readmission which returns them to Ukraine as the transit country but Ukraine for obvious reasons cannot deport them back to Somalia.

    There is then the issue of Ms Tymoshenko’s proposed treatment abroad. Which nations allow convicted prisons to receive treatment in foreign hospitals? If the law is changed or circumvented for her, what of the other tens of thousands of prisoners who may want treatment in a foreign hospital? Can they all go to Germany for treatment as well? To deny them after Ms Tymoshenko sets any such precedent would be a breach of their human rights would it not? What does the EU think the Ukrainian publics view on that is when most can’t even get an EU Visa?

    Have there been any mass rallies since she was jailed? Have there been any protests since she started her hunger strike? Has there been any form of spontaneous civil disobedience? No.

    What should that tell the leadership of the external actors? Living here I can assure you that spontaneous protests can and do occur without being violently put down as in other nations.

    Surely the best place to make hard-hitting statements to Ukrainian society will be in Ukraine, live on Ukrainian TV, radio and directly to the Ukrainian public. Will staying away help that message reach the Ukrainian people? If they think so they don’t know much about the Ukrainian people.

    If the EU leaders stay away, it is their choice but it will not earn them much popularity amongst the Ukrainian public in the morality department, it won’t change the current authorities position over Ms Tymoshenko, and for those who lead nations who may very well go on and win the tournament, staying away may have a heavy domestic price if they are not there to support their national teams.

    It is a much harder choice for the sovereign politicians than for those appointed and are recognised with no nation taking part.

    I do not expect any united front from the national leaders over a boycott and I am sure that many national ambassadors in Kyiv will be telling them even if they do stay away it won’t make any difference to the plight of Ms Tymoshenko.

  14. avatar
    Docteur Nô

    les droits humains sont fondamentaux et ne devraient jamais tre “ngocis”, et les politiques, hlas, les bafouent sans arrt. Alors quoi bon boycotter un vnement sportif Europen des fins politicardes et partisanes…

  15. avatar
    Daniel Pluskota

    yes, because administration which breach rules of democracy shouldn’t be allowed to organize events like this…..

  16. avatar
    Martin Bohle

    …is ” former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko” trustworthy? Possibly with limits; anyhow the current government(s) should help clarifying any question about her mistreatment.

  17. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    It is only a sport event. Let’s keep it clean from politics… There are other ways and opportunities to deal with the Ukrainian political elite… What good will be achieved anyway? Pass a message? The message has been passed many times until now..Has anything changed? No.. They know our positions… Leave the sporting event free of politics, and once it is finished then proceed with other sanctions to put pressure on Ukraine.. I do not think they will bother much if Germany or a few other countries withdraw..

  18. avatar

    I don’t remember the boycott of the Olympics in Beijing. But I am waiting for the boycott of the Olympic Games in Sochi … like for the snow in the summer … Eurohypocrites!!

  19. avatar
    Eusebio Manuel Vestias Pecurto

    A Europa é Democrática e sera Democratica deeve haver boicote aos jogos este governo da Ucrânia tem que mundar as leis dos direitos humanos deve haver dignidade justiça iguldade e respeito pelo ser humano

  20. avatar
    Ana-Maria Anghelescu

    I don’t think that this is a political boycott. I am convinced that, even if Yulia Timoshenko is guilty or not, she should have a fair trial. Human rights are not political, every person in the world should benefit from fair Justice.

    I understand that neither Timoshenko nor other politicians are saints (may this be a course for all these?!), but still she is a citizen of a modern country and she deserves to be treated well.

    In Romania, I saw many cases of this sort (I mean frauds), but almost none of them were solved. I can’t deny that there are some trials but they are time and energy wasting. I think the real problem here is not the internal politics, but the Justice!

  21. avatar
    Viktor Tkachuk

    The refusal to visit Euro-2012 is undoubtedly a clear political position of heads of the leading EU countries on the policy of the present Ukrainian authorities. These are already concrete steps of those leaders towards political isolation of the leadership of Ukraine. This is already a tendency which will get developed after obvious non-transparent and non-democratic conduction of parliamentary elections in October of this year in Ukraine.
    For citizens of Ukraine the major thing is to believe their voice can be heard in Europe and hope that everything can be differently.
    It would be quite good for the objectivity of this position, if leaders of Europe gave an assessment of the Ukrainian opposition as well. After all, power is as authoritative as is allowed by opposition.
    Another question is whether the Ukrainian people deserve boycott from the EU leaders?
    A general boycott can drive a nail into the consciousness of Ukrainians that euro-integration is hopeless; therefore, it is not the Ukrainian way.
    Billions of euros from the Ukrainian budget have been spent on the preparation for Euro-2012. These means have been used for championship infrastructure at the time when Ukraine continues to be the first in Europe in the death rate, losing over several hundreds of thousands of citizens annually. The price paid by the Ukrainian people for Euro-2012 to take place is defined already not by money. Therefore, is it worth to level it down?
    Absolutely another question is whether at least a half of these means was used for football, which is really so much loved by millions of Ukrainians? Clearly, no. Press, experts and business argue that public funds have settled at private accounts of political bureaucrats in offshore. According to recent trends, they will be invested already into the European economy.
    The following detail is that European political leaders will have to answer their voters why they didn’t support their national football teams at Ukrainian stadiums.
    At the same time, there always exist several variants of development of events. For example, the boycott on the side of leadership and sports society of the EU can touch upon the official power of Ukraine only. In particular, the championship will take place; leaders of the EU will arrive to Ukraine, but will demonstratively not meet with any governmental officials of Ukraine. Then, Ukrainians will understand that neither they nor Ukraine are being boycotted, but only the present political establishment is. Such message will be more sincere and understandable for the Ukrainian people, than the general boycott of Euro-2012.

    Viktor Tkachuk,
    Director general
    The Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy “People First

  22. avatar
    Lazaros Kalaitzidis

    We don’t give a shit about what corrupted EU leaders will do. They’ve gone into financial war inside europe and this is unacceptable. My instict tells me that that’s the story about Tymoshenko as well, she was “on their side” and the new government is on another side (Russia?). We want a United Europe that serves the interests of ALL europeans, not only the western ones.

    to the point of the question, of course i’ll watch the tournament and Greece is opening it against Poland! GO GREECE<3 !

  23. avatar

    Russia tries to force their will upon free Europeans by supporting terrorism. Ukranians are very progressive people with great potential and a own culture, all they want is to be free. Comparing Greece with Ukraine is not rational, Greece is a free democracy and the cultural heart of European democracy. Let’s not forget that the Euro cup is a European tradition we should be proud upon.

  24. avatar
    Rita Bacalhau Lopes

    What about the animals massacre that happened so that the streets would be clean of dogs and cats to welcome the Euro??those things noone speak of and their are inhuman and revolting..why do not UE do something about it as well?

  25. avatar

    everything after Poland should be treated with some degree of suspicion.

  26. avatar
    Felix Sandu

    Never shot a romanian in Cetatea Alba, Basarabia, Bucovina, Trasnnistria
    NEVER SHOT. Destul! Nu va ajunge hegemonia tarista si leninista?
    1812-2012 BASARABIA – ROMANIA

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