• EU leaders have mixed views on the Ukraine football boycott (Photo: bildungsr0man)

EU ministers disagree on Ukraine boycott

15.05.12 @ 09:38

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - EU foreign ministes in Brussels on Monday (14 May) gave mixed views on the boycott of next month's Euro2012 football games in Ukraine.

The foreign ministers of Poland and Sweden spoke out against the idea.

Poland's Radek Sikorski told the Polish press agency that "nobody proposed a sports boycott" and that nobody even used the word "boycott" during the meeting in the EU capital. He added that EU countries are "still waiting for developments in Ukraine before deciding whether politicians from individual countries will go to games."

Sweden's Carl Bildt made fun of the problem.

"I don't really see the point in boycotting football matches. Foreign ministers don't normally run around to football games to exercise their duty," he said.

Poland is co-hosting the championship with Ukraine. Poland and Sweden also drafted the EU's so-called Eastern Partnership policy in 2009, designed to bring six post-Soviet countries, including Ukraine, closer to the West and out of Russia's old sphere of influence.

For his part, British foreign minister William Hague said attendance by UK ministers is still under review.

The Italian and Spanish foreign ministers said the debate needs to centre on human rights violations against former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is in jail over "abuse of office" in what the EU has criticised as "selective justice."

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and the foreign minsters of Belgium and Austria took a pro-boycott line.

Ashton gave her "full support" to the European Commission's recent decision to stay away from the football extravaganza.

She said "we are very concerned about the case of Yulia Tymoshenko and ... other people treated in a similar fashion." She added that the visit of Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov to Brussels on Tuesday is an opportunity for Kiev to mend fences, however.

Belgian minister Didier Reynders told reporters "the political boycott is necessary ... Belgium should not go to the Ukraine-hosted matches in the European soccer championship."

Wolfgang Waldner, state secretary of foreign affairs of Austria, said rule of law has to be respected in Ukraine.

He noted that the EU is unlikely to sign a political and trade association agreement with Ukraine unless Tymoshenko is rehabilitated and allowed to run in parliamentary elections in autumn.