Ukraine Government Row Over Euro 2012 Financing

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's government was embroiled in a row on Thursday over how to finance its share of the Euro 2012 football championship.

Volodymyr Litvin, speaker of Ukraine's parliament.

The UEFA named Ukraine and Poland co-hosts of the tournament in April 2007, but since then the former Soviet republic has struggled to prepare for its share of the hosting responsibilities.

Volodymyr Litvin, speaker of Ukraine's parliament, on Thursday declared he would sign into law a government financing bill putting the legislature at loggerheads with the government on Euro 2012 funding.

The bill among other measures calls for Ukraine's national bank to send most of its profits directly into a government fund financing Euro 2012 preparations, a sum for 2009 equivalent to 800 million dollars, to a Sehodnia newspaper estimate.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko vetoed the funding plan on September 4, saying taking funds from the National Bank to pay for Euro 2012 preparations was fiscally irresponsible, and violated agreements between Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund.

A politician supporting market reforms and conservative fiscal policies, Yushchenko on Tuesday said he would forbid the National Bank from paying its profits into Euro 2012 preparations, even if parliament passed legislation to do so, as such a law would violate the constitution.

Officials in Yushchenko's administration have suggested Ukraine issue a government-guaranteed bond to help finance Euro 2012 - an idea criticised in parliament as unlikely to attract investors, given a world financial crisis and Ukraine's weak economy.

A long-running political stand-off between Yushchenko and his opponents has seen repeated failures by parliament even to meet in session, with one group of MPs physically blockading the chamber to prevent the legislature from conducting business.

The most recent blockade, instigated by anti-Yushchenko MPs, took place Wednesday.

Wrangling between Yushchenko and his opponents in parliament over a host of issues, among them Euro 2012, have left Ukraine's preparations for the tournament underfunded, and according to UEFA officials behind schedule.

Ukraine's stadiums are the most ready, with one state-of-the-art venue opened earlier in September in Donesk, and modernisation work proceeding in the cities Kiev and Kharkiv.

One game site, in the west Ukrainian city Lviv, is worse off, with work on a new stadium not yet started and talks still in progress between the city government and a proposed general contractor.

Ukraine's weakest points as a potential Euro 2012 are, according to UEFA officials, a shortage of thousands of hotel rooms, an aging transportation network, and a Soviet-style service industry unable to cope with as many as one million fans predicted to attend the tournament.

The UEFA is scheduled to complete in November a formal review of Poland's and Ukraine's preparation effort for hosting Euro 2012. Ukraine could lose some or all of its hosting rights to Poland, if its efforts to get ready continue to drag, UEFA officials have warned.

Source: DPA