Tuesday

22nd Aug 2017

Focus

Gay rights is EU entry criterion, Brussels says

  • Armenian church service: 'It's not in our culture to accept homosexuals' (Photo: sjdunphy)

The European Commission has said in a written note that respect for gay rights is a legal criterion for EU accession.

It cited the 1993 so-called Copenhagen criteria for EU eligibility and article 2 of the EU Treaty, which prohibit discrimination against "minorities."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

It also cited articles 10 and 19 of the EU Treaty and article 21 of the European Charter on Fundamental Rights, which explicitly forbid discrimination on grounds of "sexual orientation."

"Rights of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people thus form an integral part of both the Copenhagen political criteria for accession and the EU legal framework on combatting discrimination. They are closely monitored by the EU commission, which reports annually on the progress made by enlargement countries with regard to the situation of the LGBT community," it said.

The commission note was sent to EUobserver in response to a question arising from an interview with an Armenian cleric.

Armenia, a deeply Christian country where church teaching has more authority than in many EU states, is keen to become an EU member.

Homosexuality is not against the law.

But according to a recent study by the Brussels-based rights group Ilga-Europe, it scores better only than Moldova and Russia in terms of legal protection of LGBT people in Europe.

Armenian law does not prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. It does not recognise any form of same-sex partnership and has no provision for legally changing one's gender, the study says.

Its legal edifice is reflected in popular feeling.

A small pro-toleration rally in the Armenian capital on 21 May saw police struggle to keep at bay counter-protesters, who yelled slogans referring to gay people as a disease and a threat to children.

Three priests spoke to media, one of whom recalled the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah to justify anti-gay views.

Counter-protesters the same night vandalised one of Yerevan's few gay-friendly bars.

For his part, bishop Hovakim Manukyan, an ecumenical officer at the Armenian Catholic church, made no bones about the situation.

"It's not in our culture to accept homosexuals. I mean, we don't reject the person, but we reject the sin and this is our freedom as Armenians. Our culture does not accept this," he told EUobserver in a recent interview in Etchmiadzin, the official seat of the Armenian church.

He said Armenia upholds basic human rights, but gay rights are a "secondary" issue where difference of opinion should be permitted.

"We have our cultural differences which should be respected ... These are questions on which you don't have consensus also in Europe. Europe is not just western Europe. For instance, Poland is a strong Christian country, or Romania or Bulgaria, or Serbia - Armenia is closer to these countries in its understanding," he explained.

EU entrants in some cases negotiate opt-outs from EU laws or transition periods for implementing sensitive parts of the rulebook.

But for Ulrike Lunacek, an openly lesbian Austrian Green MEP who co-chairs a European Parliament gay rights group, this does not mean countries can choose which values they adopt.

"Accession of a country will not be possible if certain LGBTI [the I stands for 'intersex'] rights are not put into law and into practice. Non-discrimination in the field of employment, for instance, has become part of the acquis [the EU's 170,000-page-long rulebook]," she said, citing an EU directive on non-discrimination from 2000.

"Protection of Pride marches has become a recurrent monitoring theme in the commission's progress reports on enlargement countries," she added.

She noted that EU institutions should work with conservative countries on the Union's fringe rather than putting up barriers, however.

"That is what the EU also stands for: co-operation instead of confrontation, openness instead of fear ... And that is another good thing," she said.

Anti-gay lobby in Brussels linked to US neocons

Lobbyists in the EU capital opposing gay rights are in close contact with American neoconservative organisations, raising questions about where their money comes from.

Opinion

LGBT rights at stake in Georgia election

The Georgian Dream party says it is pro-EU, but its demonisation of LGBT people for the sake of a few votes is a retrograde move on Georgia's European path.

Malta legalises same-sex marriage

Once regarded as conservative, the catholic island of 440,000 becomes the latest EU country to allow same sex couples to marry.

In cooperation with

News in Brief

  1. US will ask Nato allies to send more troops into Afghanistan
  2. Greece to be absent at event on Communism and Nazism
  3. Czechs want observer status in Eurogroup meetings
  4. Putin sends EU-blacklisted ambassador to US
  5. Austria has begun checks at Italian border
  6. Slovenian PM: Brexit talks will take longer than expected
  7. Merkel backs diesel while report warns of economic harm
  8. UK to publish new Brexit papers this week

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference