EU Member States express ‘grave concern’ over Hungary’s LGBTIQ discrimination

In a statement, the governments of Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Latvia, Italy, Greece, Austria and Cyprus slammed the recent adoption by the Hungarian Parliament of amendments which discriminate against LGBTIQ persons.
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By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

23 Jun 2021

The statement, released on Tuesday, said the amendments to a number of Hungarian laws (the Child Protection Act, the Act on Business Advertising Activity, the Media Act, the Family Protection Act and the Public Education Act) discriminate against LGBTIQ persons and violate the right to freedom of expression under the pretext of protecting children.

The Member States said the amendments represented “a flagrant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and hence deserves to be condemned.”

“Inclusion, human dignity and equality are core values of our European Union and we cannot compromise on these principles. These amendments also violate the freedom of expression, by limiting the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference by public authority, as enshrined in the charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”

The statement goes on, “Stigmatising LGBTIQ persons constitutes a clear breach of their fundamental right to dignity, as provided for in the EU Charter and international law.”

The Member States conclude by saying that beyond the discussions taking place at the General Affairs Council, they are urging the European Commission, as Guardian of the Treaties, to “use all of the tools at its disposal to ensure full respect for EU law”, including referring the matter to the European Court of Justice.

“Inclusion, human dignity and equality are core values of our European Union and we cannot compromise on these principles”

Statement by 17 Member States

Reacting to the Member States’ statement, Irish Greens/EFA MEP Ciarán Cuffe said he was “very pleased that the Irish Government has been clear on this, as it should be.”

Hungarian Renew Europe deputy Katalin Cseh said she was “grateful for this outpouring of support”, adding that “Hungary's LGBT+ community are EU citizens and deserve Europe’s protection when their rights are so flagrantly violated.”

“Excuses have run out, it is time to take action, President von der Leyen.”

Cseh did not have long to wait, as on Wednesday morning, von der Leyen publicly described the Hungarian bill as “a shame.”

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Von der Leyen said, “It discriminates people on the basis of their sexual orientation and goes against the EU's fundamental values. We will not compromise. I will use all the legal powers of the European Commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed.”

“This Hungarian bill is a shame ... It goes against the fundamental values of the European Union. Human dignity, equality and respect for human rights”

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President

Von der Leyen said she had instructed the responsible commissioners to send a letter to express the executive's legal concerns to the Hungarian government before the bill enters into force.

She added, “I have said it before: I believe in a European Union where you are free to be who you are and love whomever you want. I believe in a Europe which embraces diversity.”

Evelyn Regner, chair of Parliament's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee said shortly thereafter that the fact that the Commission wants to take action against Hungary's law restricting information about homosexuality and transsexuality is “an important and correct sign.”

German Greens/EFA member Hannah Neumann said, “Finally, the Commission leadership dares to speak up strongly. I hope the Council will follow soon.”

“The European Union is a Union of values and the EU's inclusive approach cannot be misused to cover up human rights violations and neglecting minority rights,” she added.

Parliament's LGBTI Intergroup tweeted, “Thank you, President von der leyen for the strong statement and for the Commission’s commitment to ensuring that the rights of LGBTIQ persons are respected. No compromise on human rights.”

Michael Roth, German Minister of State for Europe, said he strongly supported the Commission's decision to take steps against “Hungary's latest discriminatory and stigmatising anti-LGBTI bill.”

He added that he was also grateful for the support of Italy, Greece, Austria and Cyprus, who decided to join the original statement by thirteen Member States following Tuesday's hearing on the rule of law situation in Hungary.

Former Belgian Prime Minister and Renew Europe MEP Guy Verhofstadt applauded the Member States for calling Hungary out on the LGBTIQ law, but pointed out that more needs to be done.

“We need far more, we need action: use the Rule of Law mechanism and the Article 7 procedure, take away subsidies and voting rights.”

“Speak the only language Orbán knows: power and money,” he added.

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