Euro 2012 – Ukraine and Poland

April 10, 2008

Euro 2012 a test for Ukraine West integration

Filed under: Ukraine — Ivan @ 5:46 am

KIEV, April 10 (Reuters) – Ukraine must stage a successful Euro-2012 soccer championship if it wants to fulfil its aspirations of closer integration with the West, including joining the EU, the ex-Soviet state’s top soccer official said.

Ukraine and Poland were chosen last year to host the championship jointly — a huge undertaking for both former Communist countries — but Ukraine has since been criticised by European governing body UEFA for a slow start to preparations.

“If we are to consider the chances of Ukraine joining the EU or NATO, we’ll have neither the first nor the second if we do not succeed in staging Euro-2012,” the head of Ukraine’s soccer federation, Hryhory Surkis, said on the organisation’s Web site.

“This amounts to a test on whether the authorities and society at large can improve living standards.”

Ukraine must construct or bring up to scratch hundreds of kilometres of roads, build dozens of hotels, improve airports and build or upgrade stadiums, which the government estimates will require investment of about $25 billion.

Ukraine’s top politicians attach huge importance to staging the championship, both for the country’s prestige and economic development. President Viktor Yushchenko has intervened several times by decrees and comments to speed up preparations.

The government wants Ukraine to join the European Union, though no timetables have been suggested by either the country or the 27-member bloc. It also wants to join the NATO alliance, though polls show a majority of Ukrainians opposed to the idea.

Poland is a member of both the EU and NATO. (Editing by Mary Gabriel)

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