Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Calls grow to relocate Euro 2012 from Ukraine

Calls are growing from German politicians and others to relocate the European Football Championship from Ukraine to neighbouring countries, following the country's alleged treatment of its former leader.
There’s still enough time to relocate the competition to Germany from the heavily criticized Ukraine if organizers act now, the head of a German police union said Tuesday.

There has been no official suggestion from any of the organizers to relocate the competition, which begins in June and is to be held in Poland and the Ukraine.

But on Tuesday Patrick Döring, the general secretary of the Free Democratic Party, the junior coalition partner, called for a quick review of whether Poland could host all of the competition's games.

"Should there be an alternative in Poland to having the games be located in the Ukraine, then we need to seriously and quickly check that out," Döring told the Bild am Feiertag special holiday edition of the newspaper.

Several politicians from the ruling conservative parties also called for a relocation of the football championships away from the Ukraine.

"A relocation of the games away from the Ukraine to Poland, Austria or Germany would be the correct political signal to the undemocratic government in Kiev," Erika Steinbach of the Christian Democratic Union told the paper.

The Union of European Football Association (UEFA) should check to see if all the games could be held in Poland, agreed Christian Social Union politician Ernst Hinsken. "If that's not possible, then Germany could determine whether a cooperation with Poland is possible so that the European Championship could take place without the Ukraine."

There was already a meeting more than a year ago in which UEFA, the German Football Association and Germany’s interior minister met to discuss a Plan B for a crisis situation, according to Bernhard Witthaut, the head of the GdP police union.

A spokesman for the interior ministry told the newspaper he was unaware of such a meeting.

The Ukraine government has come under intense political pressure for the way in which former Prime Minister Yulia Tymmoshenko has been treated. She claims she was kicked and punched by prison guards and forcibly removed from her cell and taken to hospital, where she refused treatment.

Her daughter has pleaded with the German government for help “before it’s too late” and Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly considering whether to boycott the games in the Ukraine.

Merkel, in her first public comments about Tymoshenko's situation, said on Monday that she was pleased to live in an country in which people had freedom of speech. She did not say whether she would boycott the football competition in the Ukraine.

Tymoshenko, 51, went on hunger strike on April 20 and photos were released last week showing a large bruise on her abdomen.

The opposition leader is serving a disputed seven-year prison term in the eastern city of Kharkiv on abuse-of-office charges described by many in the West as politically motivated. She is also facing tax evasion charges.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich - in his secondary role as Sports Minister - said he would boycott the Germany vs Netherlands match in Kharkiv on June 13 if he was forbidden from visiting Tymoshenko before-hand.

Now Germany is pushing for the opposition leader’s release on health grounds.

Director of the Charité hospital in Berlin Karl Max Einhäupl repeated his call on Monday for Tymoshenko to travel to Berlin for treatment, following a visit by a team of his doctors last week to check on her condition.

Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup football championships and the Women's World Cup last year. Both events were seen as very successful and well organised by both participants and spectators.

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