MEPs lament ‘putinisation’ of Hungary as EU urged to take urgent action

A fiery plenary debate on Hungary’s new anti-LGBTIQ law saw deputies entreat the European Commission and Council to “do their job” and put a “democratic lock” on the EU budget.
European Parliament Audiovisual

By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

07 Jul 2021

On the eve of the entry into force of Hungary’s new anti-LGBTIQ law, parliamentarians took aim at the gradual dismantling of the rule of law in Hungary during a plenary debate on Wednesday.

On June 15, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a law originally intended to fight paedophilia, which, following amendments proposed by members from the ruling Fidesz party, contains clauses prohibiting the portrayal of homosexuality and gender reassignment to minors.

The law also prohibits homosexuality and gender reassignment from being featured in sex education classes and stipulates that such classes can now only be taught by registered organisations.

On June 22, 18 Member States issued a statement expressing “grave concern” over Hungary’s LGBTIQ discrimination, calling the new law “a flagrant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression” that “deserves to be condemned.”

Speaking earlier in plenary on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the new Hungarian legislation uses the protection of children as an excuse in order to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

“It is a disgrace, this legislation. It is something that flies in the face of the values of the European Union. Protecting human dignity, equality, preserving human rights; these are our values, and they are anchored in Article 2 of our Treaty.”

“This law conflates gay people with paedophiles and it incites violence and hatred. If this is not enough for the EU to take action then nothing else will be. So stop funding Viktor Orbán’s corruption and apply the rule of law mechanism” Katalin Cseh, Renew Europe

“At the European Council, European heads of state and government made it quite clear that they wanted to support the Commission on this issue. I shall use all instruments available to the Commission in order to defend these fundamental principles,” Von der Leyen added.

The ensuing plenary debate on breaches of EU law and of the rights of LGBTIQ citizens in Hungary saw a groundswell of fierce opposition to Hungary’s new anti-LGBTIQ law, as MEPs urged the Commission and Council to take punitive action against Hungary over its backsliding in democratic values.

Opening the debate, Anže Logar, Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared, “There is no place for homophobia in European Union. No one should feel a need to conceal their true selves in order to avoid discrimination, hate or even violence. All citizens of our Union are equal and should be able to live in freedom and safe from discrimination based on their age, sex, race, colour, religion or sexual orientation.”

S&D leader Iratxe García Pérez started her speech by stating that LGBTI rights are human rights and that acting against those rights in the European Union is illegal.

“This is why the new Hungarian law must be revoked, because it is an attack on human rights and it is an indecent and shameful law. This retrograde law sows the seeds of hate and violence.”

She added that “reaction must now become action” through the use of the conditionality mechanism linked to the rule of law, and sanctions via Article 7.

“It is a disgrace, this legislation. It is something that flies in the face of the values of the European Union. Protecting human dignity, equality, preserving human rights; these are our values … I shall use all instruments available to the Commission in order to defend these fundamental principles”

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President

Dutch EPP member Jeroen Lenaers asked, “What kind of message are we sending as a government to young people by insisting that even the mere portrayal of homosexuality in itself is already so abnormal or so dangerous that young people should be shielded from it?”

“What message does it send to a boy or a girl who falls in love for the first time with another boy or another girl, that their feelings aren't normal, that they have something to be ashamed about, that there is something wrong with them?”

Lenaers added, “The only one who has anything to be ashamed of is a parliament who sends such a message. The rule of law in Europe is in need of some long overdue maintenance and you Member States have all the tools necessary to make the difference and it is time now to put your money where your mouth is and finally act.”

German Greens/EFA deputy Terry Reintke said, “Between a Europe of freedom and a Europe of hatred and oppression, the choice is very clear: we choose freedom, we choose equality, we choose democracy.”

“And we choose a European Commission that will stand up for this freedom, for the freedom of people in Hungary, for the freedom of judges in Poland, for the freedom of everyone in the European Union to love who they want to love and to be who they are.”

Renew Europe MEP Liesje Schreinemacher said, “Let's make Mr Orbán listen the only way he knows how. If the law is not revoked, bring Hungary to court, repeal its voting rights and stop EU funds ending up in his pockets.”

“The new Hungarian law must be revoked, because it is an attack on human rights and it is an indecent and shameful law. This retrograde law sows the seeds of hate and violence” Iratxe García Pérez, S&D leader

“This Parliament is doing everything in its power to make this happen. We are doing our job and now we are urging the European Commission, but especially the Council, to finally do theirs.”

Hungarian Renew Europe colleague Katalin Cseh said, “It is beyond tragic that we are here today, to witness the exact replica of Putin’s law being adopted in the EU.”

“Right now, in Hungary, it’s illegal for high school teachers to talk to high school students about diversity and acceptance, or for kids to watch cartoons with queer characters in them. This law conflates gay people with paedophiles and it incites violence and hatred.”

“If this is not enough for the EU to take action then nothing else will be. So stop funding Viktor Orbán’s corruption and apply the rule of law mechanism, because human rights abuses are only a means for him and kleptocracy is the ultimate end.”

Though the majority of MEPs voiced their strong opposition to the Hungarian anti-LGBTIQ legislation, not all members were on board, as evidenced by some ECR and ID group deputies such as Polish ECR member Joachim Brudziński, who said that Poland and Hungary are part of Europe and will stay in Europe.

He said, “No one gave the left [in Parliament] the right to decide who is a European and who isn't. In Poland and in Hungary, the governments have democratic legitimacy and they are permitted to protect the real values from the Old and New Testament and not from the left’s arsenal.”

Read the most recent articles written by Lorna Hutchinson - EU balks at UK’s demand to rewrite Northern Ireland Protocol

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