MEPs address UEFA & IOC on exclusion of Belarusian athletes from EURO 2024 & Paris 2024

MEPs address UEFA & IOC on exclusion of Belarusian athletes from EURO 2024 & Paris 2024

On 14 March, 104 MEPs addressed a letter to UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin opposing the participation of Belarus at the EURO 2024 qualifiers. The MEPs, from all the main political groups, called on the European football governing body to ban Belarus from EURO 2024 qualifying matches due to the regime’s abuse of human rights.

As justification for taking severe action against the Belarusian football squad, MEPs listed a number of human rights violations, such as the detention or imprisonment of political inmates, including athletes and sportspeople. The letter also pointed up how these violations contributed to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Furthermore, MEPs underlined that the participation of the Belarusian national team could be instrumentalised by the regime for propaganda purposes: “The very fact of participating in UEFA Championship by the Belarusian national team will be later used by Lukashenko and his propaganda team to prove he is well-received in the international community”.

Consequently, MEPs urged UEFA to “reconsider its position on the Belarussian football team”. “It is clear from an international standpoint that the current measures are inadequate and fail to reflect what the Belarusian authorities are doing in relation to human rights and other UEFA values”. UEFA has not provided any answer to the letter, yet.

Furthermore, on 15 March, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the further repression against the people of Belarus. Through this resolution, MEPs criticised the IOC’s statement from January 2023 on the possibility to explore pathways to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games qualifiers under neutrality conditions.

As such, the European Parliament: “Reiterates its condemnation of the recent decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow Belarusian athletes to compete in qualifications for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games under a neutral flag, which runs counter to the multifaceted isolation of Belarus and will be used by the regime for propaganda purposes; calls on the Member States and the international community to exert pressure on the IOC to reverse this decision and to adopt a similar position on any other sporting, cultural or scientific events”. While the IOC is actively discussing the issue, it is important to note that no final decision has been taken.

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