The EU Commission has told Ukraine it must drastically improve its rule of law before harbouring any hopes of closer ties with the 27 member bloc.
The latest warning, at a joint EU-Ukraine cooperation council in Brussels, comes amid growing concern over the alleged mistreatment of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
Ukraine’s prime minister Mykola Azarov rejected the allegations, saying: “Everybody is equal before the law including former prime ministers. We do not prosecute anyone in Ukraine simply for political reasons.”
But several senior EU officials have said they will not attend the upcoming Euro 2012 football championships, in a sign of a deepening rift.
“What I’ve heard from a number of the people I’ve talked to is the expectation that fair play, which is so clearly connected with sport and football, would be played not only in sport and football but also in the area of rule of law.” EU enlargement chief Štefan Füle said.
For the moment, the EU has not gone as far as to call for a complete boycott of the European soccer tournament in Ukraine.