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This House would boycott the Euro 2012 in Ukraine unless Yulia Timoshenko is released from prison
This House would boycott the Euro 2012 in Ukraine unless Yulia Timoshenko is released from prison
The UEFA Euro 2012 tournament is being jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine. The football is scheduled to start on 8th June with a match between Poland and Greece and it will run until 1st July. The Final will be held in the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv the capital of Ukraine. This will put Ukraine in the spotlight throughout the tournament as leaders regularly attend international tournaments to show their support for their national team and sometimes engage in some international diplomacy on the side. There have however been calls for Europe’s leaders to not attend, to boycott, those games that are to be held in Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been campaigning for a mass boycott by European leaders and she has been joined by the Austrians. Others such as the European Commission President Barroso and British Foreign Minister William Hague have said they will be staying away without explicitly stating that they are boycotting the tournament. The furore has been caused by the conviction of Yulia Timoshenko on charges of criminally exceeding her authority over a 10-year gas contract signed with Russia in January 2009. Timoshenko and her supporters claim it was a politically motivated show trial and an attempt by the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych to prevent his main rival from contesting elections in the future. Timoshenko went on hunger strike in April having accused prison guards of beating her and fearing that the Ukrainian authorities would attempt to have her killed. Although Timoshenko ended her hunger strike on 9th May the international fallout continues.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Europe must not give approval to this regime.||This is a sports event not a political event|
|Boycotting Euro 2012 will highlight Ukraine’s backsliding on human rights||A boycott won’t help resolve the issues at question|
|Boycotting Euro 2012 is proportional||The boycott would affect Poland and the Ukrainian people as well as Yanukovych|
|Boycotts did not take place for the 2008 Olympics despite the far worst human rights background|
|Europe needs to prevent Russian influence in Ukraine|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Europe must not give approval to this regime.
Viktor Yanukovych fairly came to power in 2010 however since then he has set about attacking the country’s fragile democracy. There are numerous cases showing this democratic decline. For example changes to the constitution that occurred after the Orange revolution have been rolled back to give more power to the presidency. Most visibly opponents of the regime such as Yulia Timoshenko have been jailed in politically motivated trials. At the same time there have been attacks on the freedom of the media and Ukraine has fallen down rankings of press freedom in 2010-11 with its score from freedom house falling from 56 to 59 with its ranking falling to 130th.
Ukraine, like its neighbours Russia and Belarus, has become a ‘virtual mafia state’ where the SBU (Ukraine’s successor to the KGB) is all powerful and the elite are unaccountable. It is becoming more and more corrupt as is shown by its fall down the Corruption Perceptions Index from 118th in 2007 to 152nd in 2011. Ukraine is clearly going in the wrong direction and European leaders need to stand up and show that the will not allow this to continue.
Attending football matches is not giving approval to a country’s government. Leaders when attending international football matches are simply supporting their team and often hoping that they will be seen as such giving them a good photo op for the audience back home.Improve this
Boycotting Euro 2012 will highlight Ukraine’s backsliding on human rights
European leaders must take a stand on human rights in their own back yard if they are to be taken seriously on the issue anywhere in the world. There are numerous human rights abuses in Ukraine; migrants "risk abusive treatment and arbitrary detention", Roma and people with dark skin in particular face governmental and societal discrimination and some xenophobic attacks and may be prosecuted for acting in self defense. Amnesty International has highlighted abuse of power by the police “numerous cases in Euro 2012 host cities in which police have tortured people in an attempt to extort money, extract a confession, or simply because of the victims’ sexuality or ethnic origin”. If Europe turns a blind eye to these kinds of abuses in neighbouring states without even a minor diplomatic snub it will not have the moral authority to confront worse abuses elsewhere in the world. States that are abusing their own citizens would shrug off criticism believing that European states will not back their criticism up with any action.
Boycotting the football will not highlight Ukraine’s human rights abuses any more than they already have been by the international press as a result of the calls to boycott. Whether leaders boycott or not the human rights abuses have been highlighted. Choosing to attend will not show that leaders are unwilling to take action simply that this is not the way for them to take action. Leaders could attend the matches and still diplomatically rebuke Ukraine’s leader.Improve this
Boycotting Euro 2012 is proportional
Diplomacy is necessary with any regime almost no matter how oppressive they are however that does not show approval of a regime to the world in the way that high profile visits and events can. Just as the Beijing Olympics were the People’s Republic of China’s coming out party so Euro 2012 is an ideal chance for Ukraine to show itself off to Europe and the rest of the world. If there was not a boycott this would implicitly show that Europe approves of Ukraine and the actions of its government.
In a list of possible diplomatic responses that range from verbal diplomatic complaints right up to sanctions a boycott represents a mid-point. A boycott is perhaps the best action that the European Union leaders could take is it takes away the shine that the event would otherwise give the Yanukovych. It will be denying him the political benefits of the Euros while highlighting rights concerns. A boycott is also proportional because it gives Ukraine’s leaders a chance to reform before beginning any further measures that would have a much deeper effect on diplomatic relations.Improve this
A boycott can’t be proportional because politics and sport can’t be linked. A proportional response would involve some real action that would hurt Ukrainian leaders such as freezing some of their corruptly gained assets rather than a symbolic boycott.Improve this
This is a sports event not a political event
Sport and politics are separate and should be kept separate. This is the position of the organisers “Uefa has no position and will not take any regarding the political situation in Ukraine, and will not interfere with internal government matters.” Euro 2012 is a football tournament that is about entertainment and bringing nations together in a common love of a game in a non-political sphere. Even pro-democracy activists such as Vatali Klitschko are “against the politicization of sports”. Politicization would be exactly what politicians are doing by engaging in cheap political stunts, such as a boycott, to promote their own human rights agendas.
Sports and politics have always been intertwined and so can’t be separated. That political leaders were thinking of attending in anything beyond a private capacity proves the linking of international football and politics. Yanukovych himself no doubt hoped for a political payoff and has opened the new stadia such as the Olympic Stadium declaring “The successful reconstruction of the NSC Olympiyskiy has become the most telling project for Ukraine's image.”
A boycott won’t help resolve the issues at question
European leaders need to consider whether their methods are likely to achieve the result they want. What Europe’s leaders want is first of all Yulia Timoshenko released and secondly improvements in Ukrainian human rights. Timoshenko is unlikely to be released as she has been convicted on charges of abuse of office and sentenced to seven years in prison; the best that could be hoped for is an improvement in her treatment. Similarly the result is not likely to be positive for human rights and democracy. There might be an improvement during the games while the eyes of the world are on Ukraine but long term there will be no impact unless Yanukovych is persuaded that improvements are in his benefit. This would require more concrete and long term actions than one off boycotts.
Past boycotts have demonstrated a lack of success in changing the situation on the ground. In the 1980 Olympics held in Moscow during the Cold War the USA boycotted in response to the 1979 invasion by the USSR of Afghanistan. The result was that the Soviet Union stayed in Afghanistan, won most medals in the Olympics and retaliated by boycotting the 1984 games held in Los Angeles.
Because these issues are domestic to Ukraine European nations cannot directly resolve them however actions such as boycotting of the tournament show that the international community wants these problems resolved. Without any action at all how will the issues ever be resolved? You don’t prevent human rights abuses by brushing them under the carpet.Improve this
The boycott would affect Poland and the Ukrainian people as well as Yanukovych
A boycott of Euro 2012 even if it was meant to be limited to Ukraine would negatively impact on the whole tournament. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tust argued "It is in Poland's undisputed interest to hold the games in Poland and Ukraine without a hitch and to prevent politics from ruining the great effort", any boycott would unnecessarily move the attention away from the games itself towards politics.
It should also be remembered that Viktor Yanukovych does not represent the whole of Ukraine and only won by a narrow margin with 48.95% of the vote compared to Yulia Timoshenko’s 45.47% in the second round. Arseniy Yatsenyuk leader of the Front for Change has urged leaders not to boycott "The best scenario would be if the European leaders attended the championship, but did not meet President Yanukovych. It's supposed to be a visit to Ukrainians, not to Yanukovych". This would show that European countries support the Ukrainian people and their democratic aspirations and even hope they may be eventually will join the European Union while showing displeasure at Yanukovych’s policies and lack of support for democracy.
A boycott of the events in Ukraine could even be good for the events in Poland as more will go there instead. It is difficult to see how the Ukrainian people are negatively affected by foreign leaders not attending matches in Ukraine. This is an action that only affects the elite.Improve this
Boycotts did not take place for the 2008 Olympics despite the far worst human rights background
It would be hypocritical for European leaders to boycott the Euro 2012 finals because of Ukraine’s recent human rights record. It an absurd overreaction when the focus is on the poor treatment of one woman, Timoshenko. Countries with poor human rights records have hosted major sporting events before without there being boycotts. President Bush was urged by some in the US such as former president Clinton to boycott the Beijing Olympics and only a few countries boycotted on human rights grounds. This was despite China having a considerably worse human rights record than Ukraine and engaged in a violent crackdown in Tibet in the run up to the games. Similarly Russia will be hosting the next Winter Olympics in 2014 should leaders essentially commit to boycotting these games too?
In a global event such as the Beijing 2008 Olympics of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi many more nations would need to boycott to have an effect. In Euro 2012 by contrast liberal democracies who claim to be concerned about human rights make up the majority of the participants making their actions much more significant.Improve this
Europe needs to prevent Russian influence in Ukraine
If Europe shuns Ukraine then Yanukovych has an obvious alternative he can turn to; Russia. Putin, the newly re-elected President of Russia, is holding out the option of a customs union with Ukraine which Yanukovych despite initially rejecting is now showing more interest in joining. Only a few years ago Ukraine was being touted for possible NATO membership and Vice President Biden called Ukraine a “European country where democracy rules”. A turn towards Russia therefore represents a failure of the European Union and NATO’s policy towards its eastern neighbours where the aim is to promote democracy and human rights.
Russian influence in Ukraine is not a real concern. Given the possibility of joining the European Union or a Russian lead customs union any Ukrainian government even one lead by a pro-Russian such as Yanukovych would choose Europe. The Ukrainians know that the Russian’s price is likely to be high and so will continue to try to balance between their two larger neighbouring blocks. As a result any boycott will not seriously affect long term relations.
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Karlekar, Karin Deutsch and Dunham, Jennifer, ‘Press Freedom in 2011: Breakthroughs and Pushback in the Middle East’, Freedom House, 2012 http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FOTP%202012%20Booklet.pdf
Keating, Joshua, ‘European leaders consider Euro Cup boycott over Tymoshenko’, Passport Foreignpolicy.com, 1 May 2012, http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/05/01/european_leaders_consider_euro_cup_boycott_over_tymoshenko
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