It’s never been clear to me just what Europe’s “boycott” of Euro 2012 is for. What ill deed is it meant to flag up? Is it the conviction and imprisonment of Tymoshenko? Her medical treatment in prison? Or the “overall human rights situation”?
Nor is it clear to me why a football tournament is the best peg on which to hang Europe’s gripes about Ukraine. Sporting boycotts have not worked all that well in the past, with the partial exception of the ban on sporting visits to apartheid-era South Africa, and that was a matter of years, not weeks. Crucially, it was a matter of restricting the freedom of competitors to work, and earn money, in South Africa.
Because what Angela Merkel and others are suggesting is far less extreme than ordering athletes not to attend a sporting event. All they are threatening to do is stay home in a huff as the teams take part in what should be a glorious festival of football. In the absence of Merkel, Barroso, Klaus et al., we fans might even be spared those TV shots of stone-faced leaders fidgeting in their seats, waiting for the damn game to end so they can get back to the business of ruling the world. Euro 2012 without Van Rompuy? We’re heartbroken.
Some of the same bunch that is threatening to stay away from Ukraine skipped the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 to protest against the Chinese crackdown in Tibet. And so did Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk – who’s now calling the German-led stayaway from Ukraine “inappropriate,” precisely the word he used to explain why he decided to skip Beijing.
He went on, “I can understand the politicians who sympathize with Yulia Tymoshenko, but nothing stands in their way to express this sympathy in a clear way during the championships.”
Right on, Don. In fact, if European statesmen and -women really want to make Yanukovych dance to their tune, a much more effective instrument is at hand. If you want all the financial goodies attached to the Eastern Neighborhood program, they could say, show us the legislation that will bar any future politically motivated prosecutions like those aimed at Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko. If you want a free trade agreement, show us that you are cracking down on cops who torture suspects and prove you are serious about solving the Gongadze killing.
Rather than staying way from Ukraine to no point (except to mollify their own domestic critics), Merkel, Barroso and the rest should use the very real powers they have to hit Kyiv where it really hurts.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO TWEETIN’ DMITRY?
The fairly patronizing attitude in the Western press toward Dmitry Medvedev’s technology hobbies when he first took office seemed to tie in with a naïve hope that Russia must be on the way to being a “normal” country, now that its president was video chatting and tweeting.
As it turned out, Medvedev’s tweets have been about as dull as anyone else’s, although his efforts to look like just a normal guy have a certain appeal:
“Toured an agro company and dairy factory, and met vacationers near Orenburg who grow watermelons in their gardens.”
The only interesting thing about Medvedev’s tweets is that he, or whoever on his staff tweets for him, does it much less often these days. He emitted six just on his first day on Twitter, 23 June 2010, inspired I suppose by his visit to Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. By the end of 2010 he’d tweeted about 300 times, so nearly twice a day, but the frequency dropped sharply. In 2011 he sent only about 100, and only 18 so far this year.