European politicians urge UEFA to stand in support of democracy in Ukraine
Deputies of the European Parliament, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and German Parliament have issued the following open letter calling on UEFA President Michel Platin to join the international community in its demands to the Ukrainian authorities concerning the persecution of members of the opposition:
Dear Mr. President:
In less than 100 days, the UEFA EURO 2012 will have its first match. The championship will partially take place in Ukraine. The signatories of this letter are deeply concerned about the current political and judicial situation in the country. Without exaggerating, we have the impression that the Ukrainian Government will try to use the sportive event as a huge PR campaign for its own purpose, while opponents of the President are still in jail, the critical media cannot work according to international standards.
Especially the situation for imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister of the Ukraine and main opponent of President Yanukovytch, is deteriorating. The decision by a Kiev court to jail Tymoshenko for seven years for abuse of office is an unambiguous signal. It says that Yanukovych does not really care what the EU thinks about him. It also confirms what Yanukovychs critics have been saying for some time – that under his leadership the country is sliding towards a "managed democracy" and autocratic rule.
Since taking power, Yanukovych has rapidly reversed the fragile democratic gains of the Orange Revolution. He has put a squeeze on the countrys independent media, with TV now in the hands of a bunch of pro-regime oligarchs. Opposition journalists – such as the investigative reporter Vasyl Klymentyev – have disappeared. In parliament, Yanukovychs Party of the Regions has, using dubious means, achieved a majority. And politically motivated prosecutions have been brought against Tymoshenko and other senior members of her bloc.
But what is clear is that the case was designed to nobble Tymoshenko and to cripple the pro-western, anti-Yanukovych forces she represents. The trial bears comparison with that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oligarch who fell out with Vladimir Putin.
She is now unable to participate in Ukraines next two elections: parliamentary ones in 2012, and the next presidential election in 2015.
Western parliamentarians, like members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, are not allowed to visit Ms. Tymoshenko in jail and verify her physical and mental condition. All Western European governments and parliaments made their position clear: They are not willing to tolerate a regime in Kiev, that suppresses all major fundamental European and international human and civil rights.
Although the UEFA is not a political institution, we know that the organizations power does not end at the football stadium. But as the EURO 2012 was and is one of the most important sportive and social events in Europe, it also gives an example, how society, European organizations and sport can have an influence on political surpression in regimes like Ukraine. You might heard that some managers of successful European football teams already announced, that they will boycott the Ukrainian EURO 2012, not traveling to the country, even not watching it on TV.
Therefore, we would like to ask you as the President of the UEFA not to close your eyes on what is happening in the Ukraine. Please mention the issues of political suppression and injustice in public, talk about it with Ukrainian officials and the government.
You represent the official and only European football organization, a sport that is not only challenging for the teams, but is also in general a part of the broader European idea. Therefore we urge you to serve as a representative of those rights, that are essential for our international community and raise your voice, not only for the people in Ukraine, but for all Europeans.
We are looking forward to hearing from you.
The letter was signed by:
Elmar Brok MEP, Chairman Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament
Viola von Cramon MP, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen Speaker on Foreign Relation of the European Union of the German Parliament
Walburga Habsburg Douglas MP, Vice-President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
Michael Laubsch, President Eurasian Transition Group
Matteo Mecacci MP, Chairman Third Committee of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
Charles Tannock MEP, ECR Group Coordinator on Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament