European leaders consider Euro Cup boycott over Tymoshenko

There seems to be a growing movement among European politicians to use the upcoming Euro cup -- co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland -- as an opportunity to take a stand on human rights conditions in Ukraine, particularly the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is now on a hunger strike and reportedly in poor health.  

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Redding and EU commission President Jose Manuel Barroso both say they will boycott the event. Czech President Vaclav Klaus and German President Joachim Gauck have already canceled participation in summit planned in Ukraine for next week because of Tymoshenko's treatment. Chancellor Angela Merkel says she will not attend Euro 2012 unless Tymoshenko's conditions improve. The Dutch parliament has passed a resolution saying that no one representing the government should attend. 

So far there's no talk of teams or players boycotting the games, though Bayern Munich president and German soccer icon Uli Hoeness did say that he "would have respect for every player who publicly took a stand on this issue."

In an interview with Der Spiegel, Ukrainian boxer and pro-democracy activist Vitali Klitschko said he did not support a boycott,  but asked players to be aware of the conditions in Ukraine:

I am against the politicization of sports. But athletes also need to be clear about what is happening in a country in which they are competing. Think about the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. At the time, regime opponents were tortured and killed by the military junta, in some instances in the very stadiums where the World Cup matches were later played. Berti Vogts, the captain of the German national team at the time, said only that he hadn't seen a single political prisoner and that Argentina was a country where order was maintained.

Klitschko said he hoped the tournament would be "an excellent opportunity to draw the world's attention to the maladministration in our country."

After the Beijing Olympics, I'm a bit skeptical of the argument that events like these can effectively highlight human rights issues in a host country. The incentive of the organizers, sponsors, and players is to have a smooth-running competition, not provide opportunity for Jesse Owens moments. On the other hand, the recent Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain did seem to draw some attention to a forgotten human rights crisis.  

In any event, the Ukraine controversy may be just a prelude to Sochi 2014.



A little slice of Canada in Honduras?

Honduras is currently at work setting up a free-enterprise zone modeled on economist Paul Romer's "charter cities" concept. The controversial idea is basically that developing countries will set aside a parcel of land to be operated under its economic rules and judicial system with the assistance of a foreign government, essentially a Honduran Hong Kong. 

Or perhaps a Honduran Vancouver. Romer was in Ottawa this week  trying to win Canadian support for Honduras's Región Especial de Desarrollo. He has co-authored an op-ed in the Globe and Mail with President Porfirio Lobo's chief of staff, calling for Canada to play a role in the administration of the zone: 

Many people from around the world would like access to the security and opportunity that Canadian governance makes possible. According to Gallup, the number of adults worldwide who would move permanently to Canada if given the chance is about 45 million. Although Canada can’t accommodate everyone who’d like to move here, it can help to bring stronger governance to many new places that could accept millions of new residents. The RED in Honduras is the place to start.[...]

By participating in RED governance, Canada can make the new city a more attractive place for would-be residents and investors. It can help immediately by appointing a representative to a commission that has the power to ensure that RED leadership remains transparent and accountable. It also can assist by training police officers.

The courts in the RED will be independent from those in the rest of Honduras. The Mauritian Supreme Court has agreed in principle to serve as a court of final appeal for the RED, but Canada can play a strong complementary role. Because the RED can appoint judges from foreign jurisdictions, Canadian justices could hear RED cases from Canada and help train local jurists.

Oversight, policing and jurisprudence are just a few of the ways in which Canada can help. Effective public involvement will also be required in education, health care, environmental management and tax administration. Such co-operation can be based on a fee-for-service arrangement in which the RED pays Canada using gains in the value of the land in the new reform zone.

The world does not need more aid. As the Gallup numbers show, it needs more Canada – more of the norms and know-how that lead to the rule of law, true inclusion and real opportunity for all.


The notion of Honduran citizens accepting the jurisdiction of a Canadian court, or a Mauritian one for that matter, still feels a bit far-fetched. But as Alex Tabarrok points out,  Romer has already taken this idea a lot farther than anyone expected.