Daily Israel Report

Planned Boycott Of Euro 2012 Prompts Charges Of Hypocrisy

Poland is pushing back strongly against proposals to boycott the Ukraine over the Tymoshenko case.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 5/6/2012, 4:42 AM

Donald Tusk with Wen Jiabao
Donald Tusk with Wen Jiabao
Reuters

The threats by European leaders to boycott the Euro 2012 competition between national football teams, due to the imprisonment and maltreatment of former Ukrainian Prime Minister and Orange Revolution leader Yulia Timoshenko,has placed Poland, the cohosts of the tournaments, in a bind.

As a host country that has invested preparations and money to make its part of the games a success, the Poles do not want a boycott movement that will rain on their parade.

Secondly, the Poles like the Lithuanians, have historically viewed the Ukraine as a buffer between their countries and Russia. They are frightened that the boycott movement may drive the Ukraine completely into the embrace of Vladimir Putin, who has already issued a statement calling for a separation between sports and politics.

The planned boycott has reawakened old suspicions and animosities towards the Germans. The current Polish government of Donald Tusk was considered easier to work with than the opposition Law and Justice Party headed by Jarosalw Kaczynski. Ironically, Law and Justice is joining calls for a boycott of Ukraine and suggested moving the matches to Poland.

The Polish government, while trying to reason with the Ukrainians to show flexibility on the issue - and perhaps opt for the face saving solution of letting their prisoner go abroad for medical care - view the calls for the boycotts as hypocritical. Prime Minister Tusk put it in an understated fashion, saying “I understand the position of the politicians, who express sympathy with Yulia Tymoshenko. It is a pity that this happens so late." In other words, why did the European Union wake up just now instead of when Tymoshenko was placed on trial in the first place?

Polish President  Bronislaw Komorowski claimed that a boycott was inappropriate and bore no comparison to previous sport boycotts, such as the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and the Beijing Olympics in 2008, that involved actual bloodshed by the host countries.

The president went on by claiming that there were "other calculations" involved and this was being used as a way of delaying EU-Ukraine integration, presumably with a view of serving the interests of Moscow.

"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.

Pavel Zalewski, a Polish member of the European Parliament, complained of a double standard, claiming that Russia got a free pass on similar actions - for example, the case of the former Yukos oil company chairman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

"When human rights were violated in Russia, when Khodorkovsky has sat in prison for political reasons for many years, I did not hear these so-called champions of liberty suggesting a boycott of Russia," Zalewski said. "On the contrary, they have had very intense relations with Russia. This apparently selective approach to the question of human rights, which is disproportionately harsh, will not influence the situation in Ukraine."