Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

LGBTI activist voices – is anyone in Europe listening?

  • Human rights violations are happening in Europe, both inside and outside the Union’s borders (Photo: Kuba Bożanowski)

Check your calendars. Infringements of fundamental rights, like freedom of expression, association, and assembly inside the European Union’s borders in 2015 – surely there is some mistake?

No, unfortunately, that is not a misprint.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

LGBTI activists and human rights NGOs are being increasingly impeded in their daily work and the European Union needs to take action before it is too late.

Over the next two days, LGBTI activists from Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria are gathering in Brussels for intensive meetings with numerous European Commission cabinets, political groups, and MEPs.

They are bringing the day-to-day reality of LGBTI people in their respective countries straight to the desks of the EC policy makers.

These organisations are facing serious challenges in protecting the fundamental rights of LGBTI people. They are looking to the European Commission and European Parliament for support and leadership.

Shrinking space

In addition to the hostility and lack of legal protection that LGBTI people face in all four countries, civil society organisations have been affected by the phenomenon often referred to as "shrinking space".

While this term might sound like a harmless piece of civil society jargon, the practice has a grave impact on the work of human rights groups.

Simply put, shrinking space is the phrase used to describe the process that deprives civil society groups, independent watchdogs, and critical journalists of the oxygen they need to survive.

This space can be shrunk in several ways.

In Hungary for example, the government launched administrative restrictions on human rights NGOs. According to our Hungarian members, investigations have been instigated by the government audit office against every LGBTI organisation operating there.

The organisations singled out for audits have received very limited information on the process or findings, despite requests to hand over personal records and sensitive data.

In Lithuania, the Law on Protection of Minors against Detrimental Effects of Public Information has been applied since 2013.

The law does not specifically target NGOs but, in effect, it is a Russian-style anti-propaganda law and censors LGBTI-related public information. One of our own member organisations faced a broadcasting restriction on two videos they produced, ultimately resulting in a complaint to the European Commission.

In other instances, funding sources have been redirected or cut off completely for some NGOs. Human rights groups have also been excluded from policy-making processes and individual activists are often harassed and intimidated.

Our Romanian member organisations have spoken recently about an LGBTI film screening that was disrupted by violent protestors without any police intervention. Bulgarian activists have also experienced barriers, saying the procedure for organising LGBTI-friendly events can be "chaotic".

Not only is shrinking space a problem for LGBTI organisations like our members, it is also a threat to wider civil society and the very foundations of democracy.

European Equality Gala

The activists visiting Brussels this week have experienced this infringement on the work of civil society first hand. That is why it is vitally important for our members to come face to face with EU policy makers.

The voices of activists, who understand the real impact that shrinking space for NGOs can have on a country’s people, need to be heard by all in the institutions.

ILGA-Europe will always do our best to act as a support for our activists and be a microphone for their concerns – whether that is through celebrating their achievements at events like our European Equality Gala on Wednesday (24 June) or by providing help with study visits, such as the one taking place right now.

Human rights violations are happening in Europe, both inside and outside the Union’s borders.

The EU needs to show coherence by pushing its member states to respect and promote the rights of LGBTI people in the same manner as it already does for accession and neighbourhood countries, as well as in its external relations.

This is why the EU urgently needs to introduce a comprehensive LGBTI strategy.

Just as ILGA-Europe strive to put our mission statement into action, the European Union must work just as hard to protect the values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights on which it was founded.

Kiev pride: A test of EU values

Public opinion in Ukraine is becoming more tolerant, but violence at the Kiev pride shows the road to an open, European society remains long and dangerous.

Analysis

MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils

European Works Councils can play a key role for workers and their unions to bargain effectively — but what are they, why have they been neutered, and why is big business objecting to greater powers?

Latest News

  1. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  2. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  3. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  4. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  5. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU
  6. EU green industry plan could spark 'dangerous subsidy race'
  7. Wolves should be defended, EU ministers urge
  8. EU Commission wants drones for Bulgaria on Turkey border

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us