EU backs Andrews's call for UEFA to cancel match


EU Foreign Ministers reacted angrily yesterday to UEFA's refusal to postpone or cancel matches involving the former Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

With the Yugoslav match against Ireland scheduled for Saturday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrews, told ministers their appeal on April 26th to international sporting organisations to back a boycott had not been heeded, and he urged them to reiterate their call. He said that since April there had been a deterioration in the situation in Kosovo and President Milosevic had been indicted for war crimes.

The ministers backed Mr Andrews, issuing a statement reiterating their position: "Recalling its conclusions of April 26th on sporting contacts with the former Republic of Yugoslavia, and taking into account developments since then, the Council expresses its disappointment that some major sporting events are still taking place. "It calls on international sporting organisations in Europe, notably UEFA, to reconsider decisions which would permit such sporting fixtures."

Mr Andrews said the issue would be discussed today in Cabinet, where a decision on withholding visas could be taken. However Mr Andrews said they would be keen to give UEFA another chance to respond.

He said it was "unreal" of UEFA to ask the Irish to play the match in these circumstances, particularly when it has already shown its willingness to bar FRY teams form club competitions.

The Minister for Sport, Dr McDaid, has said he will raise the question of the match at a meeting of EU Sports Ministers today in Paderborn, Germany.

UEFA is not alone, however, in defying the EU ministers' appeal. Basketball's international body, FIBA, currently preparing for the European Championships in France from June 21st to July 3rd, has said the appeal will not make any difference to its policy.

Unless it too reconsiders its position the French government may also have to consider the refusal of visas to FRY players, all the more awkward because they are the current European champions.