PRN: Berlin Meeting Rejects Boycott of Euro 2012 and Distances Itself From Merkel's Ukraine Remarks
Berlin Meeting Rejects Boycott of Euro 2012 and Distances Itself From Merkel's Ukraine Remarks [24-May-2012] KYIV, Ukraine, May 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- It is important to separate politics from sport, and a boycott of Euro 2012 in Ukraine would be counter-productive and mistaken.
Berlin Meeting Rejects Boycott of Euro 2012 and Distances Itself From Merkel's Ukraine Remarks
KYIV, Ukraine, May 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
It is important to separate politics from sport, and a boycott of Euro 2012 in Ukraine would be counter-productive and mistaken. Â This was the consensus among delegates from politics, business and civil society at a conference in Berlin held on Wednesday, discussing Ukraine's path towards EU integration.
"We should not mix sports and politics," said Dmytro Spivak, of the opposition Ukrainian Social Democratic Party Ukrainia Vpered. Â He said history had shown that boycotts "achieve nothing." A boycott of Euro 2012 in Ukraine "would not harm the government, but the people and the economy." He suggested putting all friction between the opposing parties to rest until after the championship.
Karl-Georg Wellmann, a CDU member of Germany's Bundestag and of its Committee on Foreign Affairs, stressed that any further isolation could push Ukraine into Russia's arms. "It's not in our interest that Ukraine becomes part of the Russian empire," he said, adding that the country should be considered as "an independent European state, supported by us with increasing welfare and wealth. They belong to the West…Ukraine is a part of Europe and Kiev is a European capital."
He also called recent remarks by German Chancellor Andrea Merkel in which she lumped together Ukraine with the authoritarian Belarus "a slip of the tongue" and noted that "you have a dictatorship in Belarus but not in the Ukraine. You cannot compare the two."
Rainer Lindner, the Executive Director of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations echoed this sentiment, saying that Merkel's comments were "not correct," and that the German business community "does not share her position."
Wellmann also commented on the controversy surrounding former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose alleged maltreatment in prison and subsequent hunger strike triggered the calls for a boycott. "For the media, it's the best story they can have," said Wellmann. "On the one side the white, innocent angel and on the other side the oligarchs and Stalinists who torture her. But that's not the real story."
Tymoshenko was jailed last October and is serving a 7-year sentence for abuse of office for agreeing to a controversial gas contract with Russia's Vladimir Putin while she was Prime Minister in 2009. Â That deal, which led to increased profits for Russia's Gazprom, led to overpriced gas that has nearly crippled Ukraine in recent years. Putin today remains a strong supporter of Tymoshenko.
Kost Bondarenko, Director of the Institute of Ukrainian Politics, said that, according to latest polls in Ukraine, Tymoshenko only has only 16% favourable rating from the people in Ukraine, and 70% are negative. The poll also showed that 66% of Ukrainians either feel she is not being politically persecuted or have no opinion.
Former President Leonid Kravchuk, meanwhile, highlighted positive developments in Ukraine, including recent election reforms, which were approved in parliament by MPs representing both the government and the opposition. The reforms were praised by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, which acts as the Council's advisory body on constitutional matters.
Participants agreed on the importance of free and fair parliamentary elections in October, widely seen as the final hurdle to the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union.
"Ukraine is an integral part of Europe and this cannot be changed," said Kravchuk. Â
Recalling a conversation with Mikhail Gorbachev in order to prove his point about Ukraine's European identity and effort to avoid Russia's bear hug, President Kravchuk said "Gorbachev once said to me that without Ukraine there is no Soviet Union. Â Today, perhaps, Russia could say that without Ukraine there will be no Eurasian Union."