A decision on whether to pay Yugoslavia's football team prize money for making it to the quarter-finals of the Euro2000 championship is being kicked back and forth by Switzerland and European football's Swiss-based ruling body, UEFA.
Yugoslavia had a successful run in the opening round of the tournament, which is co-hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium. Despite having a player sent off in every game, the team managed a place in the quarterfinals, but were eliminated after losing 6-1 to the Netherlands.
All eight quarter-finalists get SFr 7.5 million, which is paid to their home football federation. And that is the reason for the controversy.
Yugoslavia remains subject to international sanctions, with its president, Slobodan Milosevic, standing accused of fomenting the multiple conflicts that have gripped the Balkans for the past ten years. Switzerland's economics ministry has demanded that UEFA prove the Yugoslav football federation is independent of the country's regime.
Until the issue is clarified, the ministry says that the prize money cannot be paid. Switzerland's sanctions against Yugoslavia ban capital transfers to organisations linked to the regime.
The sanctions were imposed by the Swiss during the Kosovo conflict, and match those applied against the regime of the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, by the European Union.
UEFA in turn says the Yugoslav football federation is independent of the Yugoslav regime, and has demanded the Swiss government prove the contrary. It says the Yugoslav football federation is one of the 51 member associations of FIFA, football's international ruling body, based in Zurich, and that since independence is a requirement of FIFA membership, the Yugoslavs are in the clear.
However, the economics ministry on Wednesday told UEFA that its arguments were not strong enough, and that the prize money will stay blocked.
The dispute in Switzerland follows a legal challenge in Belgium to Yugoslavia's participation in Euro 2000. The action, brought by a Kosovo Albanian group, was rejected, but a Brussels court ruled that payment of the prize money would be a breach of sanctions, if the football federation was shown to be linked to the Yugoslav regime.
Sanctions led to Yugoslavia being banned from the 1992 European championship. Its place was allocated to near-qualifiers Denmark, who went on to win the competition.
swissinfo with agencies