Friday

8th Dec 2023

EP groups drop homophobe from Sakharov prize

  • The 'big three' groups in European Parliament - the European People's Party, the Socialists & Democrats, and Renew Europe - performed a U-turn within hours of EUobserver's publication of Paval Sieviaryniec's record (Photo: European Parliament)

The three major political groups in the European Parliament all say they no longer support a Sakharov prize nominee because of his homophobic views.

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP), centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D), and liberal Renew Europe had jointly co-nominated Belarus dissident Paval Sieviaryniec as part of collection of names for the annual freedom of thought prize.

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  • Sieviaryniec has already served 100 days in a Belarus prison for opposing president Alexander Lukashenko (Photo: Wikimedia)

The decision to withdraw his name came hours after EUobserver revealed Sieviaryniec's homophobic past on Tuesday (22 September).

German centre-right MEP Michael Gahler said the three groups have since decided to pull Sieviaryniec's name from their official listing.

"In a wish not to compromise our joint nomination and the cause of the Belarusian Opposition as well as the Sakharov Prize, the EPP, the S&D and Renew Europe have decided to withdraw Pavel's name from the joint nomination," he said in an email.

Gahler highlighted Sieviaryniec's struggle against the Belarus regime headed by Alexander Lukashenko, noting Sieviaryniec has spent over 100 days in Belarus prison.

Sieviaryniec is facing up to eight years in jail for challenging the dictator.

But at the same time, Sieviaryniec has cultivated an overt homophobia, which Gahler says is a product of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Belarus.

"The EPP criticises and rejects such views," he said.

The S&D are now blaming the EPP for having proposed Sieviaryniec in the first place - saying they had assumed the latter would have done some background research.

Sieviaryniec's views on homophobia are clearly outlined on his Wikipedia page, where he is cited for an interview against homosexuality he gave to Radio Free Europe.

Swedish socialist MEP Evin Incir said the S&D vice-president Kati Piri had since sent an email on Tuesday to withdraw the name that the "EPP had presented."

Last Friday, Piri's office confirmed to this website that Sieviaryniec was among the nominees on the list.

When pressed about his homophobic views in a follow up question also on Friday, her office did not respond.

The plan now is to discuss all the nominations again at a joint European Parliament committee meetings next Monday.

"There will then be an additional meeting of the the joint committees where there will be a secret vote," said Incir, in a tweet.

She said the outcome of the secret vote will then be presented to the Conference of Presidents, the roundtable of political group leaders.

Although a deadline for the names have since passed, the European Parliament's deputy spokesperson says the groups can still nominate people.

"The political presentation to the committee (foreign affairs) has not taken place yet," said deputy spokesperson, Delphine Colard.

"We are super early in the procedure, so of course they can make a correction," she said.

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