25th Oct 2016

Poland: Euro2012 boycott based on ulterior motives

  • Komorwski (l) also urged Polish workers not to hold demonstrations during the games in Poland (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The President of Poland - which is co-hosting Euro2012 with Ukraine - has accused EU politicians planning to boycott Ukrainian matches of ulterior motives.

Speaking on national TV on Wednesday (2 May), Bronislaw Komorowski said the crackdown on opposition in Ukraine is not comparable to events which prompted previous Western boycotts - of the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

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"These were the effects of war which Russia launched against Afghanistan or the bloody repression of Tibetans' aspirations for freedom, where blood was spilt, where there were mass arrests, jailings and so on. But the situation in Ukraine is not like that. We all understand this perfectly. So it is possible to speculate there are some other calculations being made."

"I don't want to delve too deeply into the reasons, but I think the reaction is absolutely inappropriate," he added.

Calls for the snub first came from two German ministers and EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding at the weekend. In recent days Austria, Belgium and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said they will not go. The Netherlands has also threatened to stay away.

Komorowski's remark on "other calculations" is an allusion to concerns that some EU countries are using human rights as a pretext for harming EU-Ukraine integration.

The countries on the boycott list have in the past opposed moves to give Ukraine a promise of future EU accession. Some Polish diplomats even believe Germany has a deal with Russia to leave Ukraine in Moscow's sphere of influence. Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski in a private conversation with US diplomats in 2008 - exposed by Wikileaks - described Germany as Russia's "trojan horse" in Europe.

Komorowski noted that the boycott could play into Moscow's hands.

"In Poland we understand very well that Ukraine is somewhere in between a choice of integration with the Western world and all of the consequences of this - improving the legal system, the judiciary - or taking part in the Customs Union proposed by Russia," he said.

The Euro2012 furore comes amid a hunger strike by Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The 51-year-old politician - who is serving a seven-year prison sentence for "abuse of office" - stopped eating on 20 April in protest at an alleged beating by prison guards.

The European football authority in charge of the games, Uefa, earlier made emergency plans to hold all the matches in Poland in case Ukraine did not manage to build adequate facilities in time.

It has ruled out taking the step for political reasons, however.

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