As planned, the government is trying to convert the positive impressions of the “great football celebration” into political dividends before the election.
Viktor Yanukovych wants to convince people that fans have seen Ukraine as a “modern European state” while First Vice Premier Valeriy Khoroshkovsky insists that official Kyiv is now one step closer to Europe.
In fact, though, Mr. Yanukovych’s regime has not overcome its international isolation. Western media stated that Euro 2012 will not improve Ukraine’s relations with the EU even though it was instrumental in Europeans learning more about Ukraine. European politicians boycotted games played in Ukraine: other than the representatives of Poland as the co-host and Italy and Spain whose teams played in the finals, very few leaders visited the games, and those that did were generally from post-soviet states. In protest against political repression, Vivienne Redding, Vice-President for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, and Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, blocked the signing of the agreement on simplified visa rules with the EU, which the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expected to happen on 23 July. Even Poland, Ukraine’s most loyal proponent, said that Ukraine’s European integration is under a huge question mark, due to its domestic political situation and uncertain development of events prior to the election.
On 27 June, the PACE Monitoring Committee supported the recommendation of Co-Rapporteurs Mailis Reps and Marietta de Purba-Lundin of the necessity to abandon the idea of calling the election undemocratic and illegitimate if individual opposition members are not allowed to run. However, if the opposition loses the election and succeeds in convincing the West that it did so as a result of manipulation and falsification by the party in power, this could trigger a tougher reaction from the West. Meanwhile, the US will have its presidential election and the White House is likely to pay more attention to FSU countries if a republican wins. The cooling of key markets for Ukrainian products will affect Ukraine’s economy and aggravate the hunger for loans from international financial institutions mostly controlled by the US and Europe, since Kyiv will still lack the funds to cover multi-million repayments of foreign debt. And Mr. Azarov’s hopes for renewed IMF lending, once Ukraine fulfills its requirements by taking unpopular action after the election, are unlikely to come true, as international financial organizations made themselves quite clear last year: talking about renewed cooperation while democratic norms are not met in Ukraine, is impossible.