Jose Manuel Barroso is president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch. (Getty Images)
(WFI) The most powerful officeholder in the EU will boycott Euro 2012, and German chancellor Angela Merkel may soon follow suit.
The president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, turned down an invitation to the July 1 final in Kiev because of Ukraine’s human rights record, according to CNN.
“The president has decided that for the time being and in the present circumstances he doesn’t want to travel to or attend any events in Ukraine,” a spokeswoman for Jose Manuel Barroso said, confirming his snub is over treatment of the country’s former prime minister.
Yulia Tymoshenko, 51, is six months into a seven-year jail sentence for alleged abuse of office and more than a week into a self-imposed hunger strike, according to her daughter Yevgenia.
Photos also surfaced last week showing Tymoshenko covered in bruises she claims were caused by her prison guards.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding is also skipping the UEFA showpiece, and Merkel will reportedly do likewise unless Tymoshenko is released. Dutch government officials and the royal family also said on Tuesday that they may boycott Ukraine during Euro 2012 if Tymoshenko’s treatment does not improve.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined EU leaders in condemning Ukraine’s actions, saying she was “deeply concerned by the treatment” of the 2004 Orange Revolution leader. Clinton is calling for the release of Tymoshenko.
Authorities in Ukraine are so far dismissing their overtures while also claiming such invitations to EU leaders to attend the tournament had yet to be offered.
“Sport is sport and politics is politics. All of this is nothing but artificial manipulation,” foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Voloshyn told AFP.
The boycott calls from Barroso come just days after at least nine children and 21 others were injured on Friday in a series of four blasts in Dnipropetrovsk, a city roughly equidistant from Euro 2012 venues in Kharkiv and Donetsk.
According to UEFA, “the security situation around the tournament, and in particular in Ukraine following the recent events in Dnipropetrovsk, was thoroughly reviewed” at a Monday meeting of representatives of the governments of Poland and Ukraine, the national agencies in charge of preparations, the presidents of both the Polish and Ukrainian football associations, the directors of the local organising committees and members of the UEFA Executive Committee led by UEFA president Michel Platini.
“UEFA received a clear assurance by the governments of the host countries that all necessary steps are being taken to guarantee the safety of all visitors, from fans to participating players,” the UEFA statement said.
Yulia Tymoshenko (right) is pictured here with UEFA president Michel Platini in 2009. (Getty)
In a separate comment issued late last week relating to Tymoshenko, UEFA said: “Host countries for tournaments are exclusively chosen based on football and football development criteria and UEFA firmly believes that independence from political considerations is an absolute necessity to ensure that people always have football to play, to hope, and to cheer, irrespective of the political situation in their country.
“This is why UEFA has no position and will not take any regarding the political situation in Ukraine, and will not interfere with internal government matters.”
Whether developments in the meantime will cause UEFA to change its tune ahead of the June 8 kickoff in Warsaw, Poland remains to be seen.
By INSIDER’s Matthew Grayson
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