Sunday, 3 June 2012
French Cabinet To Boycott Euro 2012 In Ukraine
PARIS, France -- France's sport minister said Thursday that she and her cabinet colleagues will boycott Euro 2012 matches in Ukraine to protest the treatment of jailed opposition figure Yulia Tymoshenko. France are scheduled to play their three group-stage matches in Ukraine, which is co-hosting the football championships with Poland but has faced growing calls for a boycott since jailing Tymoshenko in October on charges that European Union leaders have condemned as politically motivated. Speaking before a friendly between France and Serbia in the northern French city of Reims, Sport and Youth Minister Valerie Fourneyron said "no member of government will be at the matches in Ukraine. "The foreign ministry informed the Ukrainian and Polish governments of this situation yesterday (Wednesday)," she said. "It's a position we've taken because of our concern for respecting European values and especially in light of Ms. Tymoshenko's situation." She said France's stance was shared by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU EU president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso. Barroso and Van Rompuy have both said they will snub the Ukraine half of the June 8-July 1 event. Merkel has threatened to do the same but has not publicly announced a boycott. Fourneyron said France would raise the issue Friday at a meeting on security cooperation in Brussels. French President Francois Hollande had already made clear last week that he would not attend any matches in Ukraine. "I love football, but what's happening in Ukraine is a problem," he told a press conference in Brussels after an informal EU summit. Les Bleus are in Group D with England, Sweden and Ukraine. Their first match is against England on June 11 in Donetsk. The French boycott announcement came as prosecutors upped the pressure on Tymoshenko Wednesday by naming her as a witness in the 1996 murder of Ukrainian parliament member Yevgen Shcherban. The Kommersant-Ukraina newspaper reported that authorities were preparing to charge Tymoshenko for organising the murder but had to wait for her to recover from back problems that have put her in hospital. Tymoshenko, 51, is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power. A driving force of Ukraine's pro-Western "Orange Revolution" in 2004, she lost the 2010 presidential race to her arch-enemy, President Viktor Yanukovych.