Saturday

21st Oct 2017

Dutch PM reminds Putin of gay rights at Sochi

Dutch PM Mark Rutte, one of the few Western leaders to attend the Olympic festivities in Russia, used the occasion to highlight concerns on gay rights.

He told press at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Friday (7 February): “I think it was very important that during our last meeting in Amsterdam, and in St. Petersburg, we were able to discuss economic and geopolitical issues, and also subjects such as the situation of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans] community.”

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The US women's hockey team competed against Finland on Saturday (Photo: sochi2014.com)

He indicated the Ukraine crisis has further strained relations.

“Our ties are good enough for us to be able to discuss with each other difficult issues that come up in our relations … and perhaps the problems that may arise in these relations.”

Putin said: “I do not really see that we have any particularly big problems in our relations.”

He recalled watching a TV show about a gay club in Sochi in which a clubber said: “Sport is sport and the Olympics is the Olympics. Let’s focus on the Olympics.” The Russian leader added: “I fully agree with what he said.”

Rutte’s mention of gay rights comes after Putin last year banned "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.”

The Dutch EU commissioner, Neelie Kroes, also raised the issue in her blog on Friday.

“I sometimes hear that ‘sport and politics cannot be reconciled.’ What nonsense. If sport can be reconciled with commerce, it can be reconciled with human rights,” she said.

Rutte was one of just five heads of state or government from Western European countries who went to Sochi.

Top politicians from Austria, Finland, Greece, and Italy also attended, while Denmark, Luxembourg, and Sweden sent royals.

Former Communist and Soviet EU countries were better represented: Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia all sent PMs or Presidents.

The roll call does not amount to a boycott, however.

German President Joachim Gauck is the only EU dignitary who said he is not going because of human rights.

In comparison, his predecessor, Horst Koehler, did go to the winter games in Canada in 2010. But Canada's overall list of European VIPs was similar to Sochi’s.

Meanwhile, the Russian event saw a big turnout by countries due to join Putin’s “Eurasian Union” in 2015.

All five central Asian countries, Armenia, and Belarus sent top men.

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych also went despite problems at home. Like Rutte, he met Putin, but they did not tell press what was said.

Away from the VIPs, Putin’s Olympic extravaganza met with a handful of small protests around Russia.

Police arrested 19 gay rights demonstrators in Moscow and four in St. Petersburg. They arrested 37 people in Nalchik, 300km east of Sochi, calling for better treatment of the Circassian minority.

Among athletes, the German team wore a colourful uniform, which, for some commentators, referenced the rainbow flag, a gay rights symbol.

The Greek team made an explicit gesture by putting on rainbow gloves at the ceremony.

But some of Kroes’ fellow EU personalities followed the “sport is sport” line.

The Greek EU commissioner for sport, Androulla Vassiliou, said the Olympics is “one of the most powerful unifying forces in our society.”

The EU ambassador to the US, Joao Vale de Almeida, promoted “the EU medal tracker,” a website created by German PR firm Euro-Informationen, which aggregates medals won by EU countries as if the EU was one nation.

“Counting all 28 #EU Member States my #Sochi2014 medal hope increases. We got 1,296 athletes!” he tweeted.

Amid reports of bad hotel facilities despite the games’ $50 billion cost, the opening spectacle saw just one glitch when a mechanical snowflake, representing one of the five Olympic rings, failed to open.

The official broadcaster, Russia-1, cut away at the embarrassing moment and cut back after the snowflake was put right.

Macron puts trade policy on summit table

France's president wants a "political discussion" on EU trade policies at Thursday's summit, amid domestic concerns over Canada and South America deals. But his colleagues are likely to avoid a lengthy debate.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks