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5th Dec 2016

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EU top job candidates back new strategy on gay rights

  • MEPs in February backed calls to launch an EU-wide strategy on gay rights (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

European Commission President candidates say they back an EU-wide strategy to support the fundamental rights of gay people.

All but one responded to EUobserver's questions on implementing a roadmap for the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans] community.

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Pro-gay rights groups and MEPs over the years have criticised the European Commission, which proposes laws, for failing to put forward a dedicated policy.

Last year, EU commissioner for justice Viviane Reding drew criticism after rejecting a comprehensive EU policy proposal on gay rights by 11 EU ministers.

She argued that an ad-hoc strategy has already emerged via existing EU laws and that the commission ensures fundamental rights are included at the negotiation phase of EU policy-making in general.

"Our laws and our policies are supporting the fight against discrimination of LGBT people," she said.

The European Parliament, for its part, says the commission's response is not good enough.

In February, the assembly passed a resolution demanding the EU legislator come up with a roadmap in order to ensure LGBT people are treated equally throughout the 28-member bloc.

Responses in alphabetic order:

Jean-Claude Juncker

Asked what he would do to get the LGBT strategy launched, centre-right contender and former prime minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker said he backs equal treatment of all people regardless of their gender or their sexual orientation.

“At the same time, he respects the competence of member states for matters of substantive family law,” his office told this website.

Asked if EU commissioner Reding made a mistake on not accepting the proposal by the EU ministers, Juncker said he would ensure full respect of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights whenever EU competences are concerned or when member states implement EU law.

“He will assess together with the newly elected European Parliament, his colleagues in the next European Commission and the Council of Ministers in which way he can best serve the principle of equality and the related fundamental rights within the field of EU competence,” said his office.

His office added: “To prejudge the outcome of this assessment now would mean not respecting the will of the voters which are called upon to elect their representatives in the European Parliament from 22-25 May.”

Ska Keller

German Green candidate Ska Keller said the parliament’s report on a roadmap against homophobia offers some concrete guidelines on getting the strategy up and running.

“I would simply have a look at the European Parliament's report on a roadmap against homophobia,” she said.

Keller noted the report, adopted by a large majority of MEPs in February, points to the mutual recognition of all existing marriages across the EU.

“It would be a very good starting point for a European strategy against homophobia and discrimination,” she said.

Martin Schulz

For outgoing European Parliament president and centre-left contender Martin Schulz, it means putting the concerns of the LGBT community much higher on the EU agenda.

“From all the people I have been in contact with about what can be done in the next term of the Commission, there is a consensus that a Roadmap is necessary,” he told this website in an email.

Schulz says that while the EU has improved the lives of the community there are indications some member states are rolling back their rights.

“Some member states in recent years have thought it acceptable to introduce regressive legislation to diminish the rights of their LGBT citizens,” he said.

The German contender notes member states often use the principle of subsidiarity as an excuse to ignore the commission on LGBT issues rather than as a legal instrument to guarantee the rights of the citizens of member states.

Subsidiarity is a legal concept that the Union should leave as much as possible for member states to decide by themselves.

“It is a priority of mine to stop this abuse of the principle of subsidiarity and to do so I intend to strengthen and increase the support to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights,” he said.

He added: “The EU cannot be a truly credible voice for LGBT rights in the world until we have made sure all member states are following the same policy Roadmap.”

Guy Verhofstadt

Liberal Guy Verhofstadt and former prime minster of Belgium said he would make use of the European Commission’s right of initiative to put forward a text for an LGBTI roadmap at the start of the mandate.

“As a candidate to the Presidency of the European Commission, I want a Commission that really governs,” he said in an email.

Launching the strategy, he says, requires getting “everyone around the table and initiate a consultation process that would feed into a concrete proposal from the European Commission.”

As commission president, Verhofstadt says he would work towards a “common strategy with, and not against, EU member states, members of the European Parliament, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, Equinet and national equality bodies, and civil society organisations.”

Alexis Tsipras, leftist contender for the commission post, was also asked. Tspiras' office confirmed it had received the questions but has yet to respond.

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