AUGB STATEMENT: SHOULD EURO-2012 IN UKRAINE BE BOYCOTTED?

02.05.12


A debate has ensued following German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s apparent decision to boycott the Euro-2012 Championships in Ukraine. The German President, Joachim Gauck, has already stated he won’t be attending a conference of Presidents hosted by President Yanukovych in Ukraine due to the continued imprisonment of former opposition leaders, specifically Yulia Tymoshenko.

One question that does need to be answered unequivocally is: Should the Euro-Championships in Ukraine be boycotted altogether?Many believe that sport and politics should not be mixed, but we believe there are some key distinctions to be drawn.

1. Ukraine and Poland have invested heavily in preparation to jointly host the Euro-2012 Championships. When the successful bid was announced in April 2007, it caused widespread jubilation in all parts of both countries. It would be wrong for the event not to take place or for national football teams to boycott the event at this stage. This would simply punish the Ukrainian people for the failings of their government.

2. The political situation in Ukraine is, however, a completely different issue. The authorities there have ignored the ever-increasing concerns raised by governments and various non-governmental institutions/organisations about the deterioration of freedom and democracy. More specifically:

political repressions against opposition leaders continue
a flawed and unfair judicial system remains in place
human rights are abused
corruption flourishes in government, the police and the judiciary
journalists are harassed
uncontrolled raider-attacks on businesses continues
peoples right to protest freely are continuously curtailed…

Representatives of the democratic free world have pressed President Yanukovych and his government in all of these matters over the past two years, but with little success. It is not enough for representatives of the Ukrainian government to criticise others for “interference in internal affairs”. Their actions have not even begun to meet European standards of democracy despite their commitments during EU accession discussions.

3. In the circumstances we believe that Angela Merkel is right to consider boycotting the Euro-2012 Championship matches held in Ukraine and we will be urging HM Government to consider adopting a similar position in order: (i) to send a very clear signal to the authorities in Ukraine, and to the population, that freedom and democracy are non-negotiable and that European leaders are not prepared to be seen relaxing at high profile sporting events in the company of those who have ignored appeals for democracy and justice to prevail and (ii) to prevent the Ukrainian authorities from using such a public non-political event for their own PR/propaganda purposes by way of carefully stage-managed side-shows/meetings/photo opportunities.

The Ukrainian government needs to make its choice - and fast. A truly democratic member of the European family, or Europe's pariah? We have good reason to believe that the Ukrainian people want the former, but the government should not be given political legitimacy for its actions by European leaders until it shows beyond a doubt, that it really wants to bring European democratic values to life.

AUGB General Council
London, 1 May 2012

 



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