French government boycotting Ukraine in Euro 2012
PARIS (AP) -France's government will boycott matches held in Ukraine during the Euro 2012 football championship because of the country's treatment of opposition figure Yulia Tymoshenko.
"The situation of human rights in Ukraine, and in particular political trials, prompts serious concerns within the European Union,'' French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Friday.
Later in the day, President Francois Hollande added, however, that he wasn't for a boycott by French sport teams.
"In terms of my presence and that of members of the government, I thought that it wasn't our place to go to Ukraine in this kind of situation,'' he told reporters.
Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron was quoted in sports daily L'Equipe as saying the decision was based on the government's worry about "respect for European values, and notably because of the situation of Madame Yulia Tymoshenko.''
Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year jail term on charges of abuse of office, condemned as politically motivated by the West. Allegations she was beaten by prison officials have prompted top EU officials to announce a boycott of championship games hosted in Ukraine.
Poland co-hosts the June 8 - July 1 event, but the France national team is based in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk for the tournament.
The final is due to be held July 1 in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.
Fourneyron said UEFA officials and the Polish and Ukrainian governments have been notified of the French boycott.
She expressed hope that other European nations would follow suit.
"France has taken its position today. It's up to each country to take its responsibilities,'' Fourneyron was quoted as saying.
Asked Friday whether the German government was considering similar action, government spokesman Georg Streiter said Chancellor Angela Merkel and several other ministers have not made plans at this stage.
"I think that will be decided at relatively short notice,'' Streiter told reporters in Berlin.