EU foreign ministers are set to meet to decide upon whether to use Euro-2012 football tournament to register disapproval at the imprisonment of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
The ministers were due to meet in Brussels on Monday morning to discuss a possible boycott of the tournament by political figures to protest against the continued incarceration of Tymoshenko.
The Netherland has already said it will not send a member of its political establishment to Ukraine, where the country plays its first game. So too, has the European Commission.
The 51-year-old Tymoshenko was jailed last October for abuse of office, but the case has been denounced by both the EU and the US as politically motivated. Pressure on Kyiv has mounted since it was alleged that Tymoshenko was injured by prison guards during a visit to a hospital. Until last week, the former premier was on a hunger strike in protest at the alleged abuse.
Germany, whose team is due to play in Lviv on June 9, is yet to decide whether it will send government representatives to Ukraine for the tournament.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said at the weekend that he would not personally attend the tournament, repeating the claims that the proceedings against Tymoshenko were politically motivated.
"You overcome your political opponents in elections, but you don't lock them up in jail," he told the German Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
Cold reception for prime minister
The EU will also make clear its displeasure with Kyiv this week when Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov visits Brussels. On Tuesday, Azarov is scheduled to discuss landmark political association and free trade deals with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule and a representative of the bloc's Danish presidency.
However, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso or EU President Herman Van Rompuy will not be meeting the Ukranian premier, as would normally be the case for a visiting head of government.
Last week, Van Rompuy had told the broadcaster Euronews that the EU wanted to send "a very strong political message."
"The prime minister of Ukraine announced he would come to Brussels, we said: 'Stay home!'" said Van Rompuy. "It is a clear signal from our side that they have to change inside Ukraine."
Tymoshenko was among the leaders of Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution, and is a long-standing opponent of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.
rc/av (AP, dpa)