With the Jubilee celebrations coming to an end on Tuesday, most of the country was hit with wet and cold weather. As enthusiasm for the Union Jack waned and the BBC got bored of informing the public of Prince Philips urinary infection, this week’s news took a rather more serious turn as the world’s eye focused upon Euro 2012…
Racism & Hooliganism at Euro 2012?
Several incidents this week have brought the world’s attention to the racism still very much alive in Ukraine and Poland; the hosts of this years European Championship. A Panorama episode, broadcasted a couple of weeks ago, documented incidents of racist abuse, violence, and hooliganism which are not rare in the hosting countries.
“If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to prison because I will kill him.”Mario BalotelliManchester City and Italian striker
In particular, one of the host cities in Ukraine, Kharkov, came under scrutiny for racial incidents this April at the Metalist stadium. BBC’s panorama captured footage of fans giving Nazi salutes to their teams; some fans later told the BBC that they were saying “Sieg Hiel” to show their agreement with Hitler’s anti-semitic and racist views.
Local police chief Volodymr Kovrygin gave a farcical defence of their actions, denying that it was a Nazi-inspired salute and claiming that the fans were simply “pointing in the direction of opponents”. Several Asian students were assaulted at the same stadium two weeks later by other Metalist fans in a racially motivated vicious attack.
In a statement emphasising that these were domestic and not international matches, Uefa said “Uefa Euro 2012 brings the spotlight on the host countries and clearly creates an opportunity to address and confront such societal issues”.
“You think I am responsible for the racists in the rest of Europe or in England or in France?” “We help them, we do a lot for racism – but I am not responsible for society.”Michel PlatiniUEFA President
Despite these claims, along with other who claimed that the issue was exaggerated, there has been an incident of racial abuse already during a Dutch training session last Wednesday. The team chose to simply move their session down to the other end of the pitch and, despite wide publicity, no formal complaint has been made.
How players and referees will react to racism during matches remains to be clear, but opinions are already split. Mario Balotelli has threatened to walk off the pitch if he feels the victim of racial abuse. However the UEFA President, Michel Platini, has insisted that players are not to make their own decisions, and leaving the pitch without authorisation will result in a yellow card for the player. Speaking to the BBC, Platini said he believed the best way to protect football from racism is to leave decisions to referees. “It’s the referee who takes these decisions. Referees can finish the game. They have this power in case of racism”.
Ministers Boycott The Group Stages
UK government ministers have announced they will boycott England’s group games in the European football championships in Ukraine over the country’s human rights record. No officials will attend the three group games; and attendance at later stages will be reviewed. William Hague said that Ukraine has ‘serious problems’, and the officials did not want their support of an English team to be interpreted as them “giving political support” to recent events in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian’s ambassador Volodymr Khandogiy has disagreed with this decision, insisting that ‘sport and politics don’t mix together’. Given the racism and hooliganism in Ukraine which has dominated much of the news this week, it is hardly surprising the diplomat expressed this sentiment.
“Sport and politics don’t mix together”Volodymr KhandogiyThe Ukraine's ambassador in London
The move by officials is seen as a serious diplomatic snub, especially given that the Ukraine is using this tournament to raise their profile internationally, especially to attract tourism. Given the current press coverage surrounding the competition, this does not seem to have gone completely to plan.
One particular concern of the UK is the treatment of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Ms Tymoshenko was imprisoned for seven years in October for alleged corruption during her time as prime minister. She has always insisted that her imprisonment is an act of political revenge by the current President Viktor Yanukoych.
Other EU leaders, including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have also announced that they are considering boycotting matches. The foreign ministry in Kiev has accused Berlin of “cold-war thinking” and officials have suggested that Germans should refrain from meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs.
“The boycott of the sporting event that has nothing to do with politics is a sign that the British government is inclined to resort to emotional rather than deeply calculated steps. [They] damage football but don’t influence in any positive way the situation with the issue that concerns London.”Oleg VoloshynThe Foreign Ministry spokesman in Kiev, the Ukraine.
Some have criticised the move to boycott, saying that it will push the Ukraine further away from the EU and towards Russia. There are also fears that retaliatory boycotts could happen with the London Olympics fast approaching.
Why ministers have chosen Euro 2012 to take a stance on human rights issues is not clear. There were no boycotts during the Beijing Olympics, although China is constantly criticised by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International for its human rights record.
The Tory human rights policy is a “shambolic mess of incoherent contradictions and double standards”Denis MacShaneFormer labour Europe minister
For many, the government’s decision to boycott Euro 2012 is too little, too late. The former Labour Europe minister Denis MacShane described Tory human rights policy as a “shambolic mess of incoherent contradictions and double standards”. “Cameron and Hague show a shaming double standard as they roll out the red carpet for the killers and torturers of Bahrain but now boycott Ukraine, where the treatment of Mrs Tymoshenko is unacceptable, but not as bad as anything in Bahrain”.
As many Europeans continue to tighten their belts under continuing austerity measures, some Irish football fans though the situation needed lightening. This photo then went viral on Twitter with the hash tag #donttellmerkel. Like this group from Limerick, thousands of Irish fans are thought to have put work on hold to travel to support their team.
A Republican attempt to protest against the Affordable Care Act, known commonly as “Obamacare” in the United States backfired earlier this week. To persuade people to sign the petition a live stream of the petition being printed was shown online. Did they really not think this was going to end badly?
Greek Politican Slapped Live On TV
A spokesman for the Greek far-right Golden Dawn party slapped a left-wing politician three times on the face whilst live on television.
Ilias Kasidiaris, elected to the Greek parliament only in last month’s elections, was partaking in a heated debated. When his alleged involvement in an armed robbery in 2007 was mentioned, he threw a glass at the woman speaking. Another female politican tried to intervene, throwing a newspaper at him as he leapt up, and was hit in the face three times.
Watch the YouTube video above from 1 minute 54 seconds.
The party Golden Dawn has come under fierce criticism, accused both of racism and of instigating violent attacks against immigrants.
Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, has also denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz and questioned the Holocaust, although he rejects the label neo-Nazi.
Ilias Kasidiaris fled the scene, and Greek prosecuters have issued an arrest warrant.
Tune in next Sunday for your weekly political news fix…