Saturday

24th Jun 2017

Focus

EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'

  • MEPs have sent a letter to president Tajani asking him to explain his role in an anti-gay summit that took place in the European Parliament. (Photo: European Parliament)

[Updated at 20.06] Anti-gay groups have hosted a summit at the European Parliament, raising questions about support by the institution's president.

The so-called Second Transatlantic Summit unfolded in the parliament on Thursday and Friday (27 and 28 April). It gathered lawmakers from around the world, including the European Parliament, and gave them an opportunity to exchange ideas on how to oppose same-sex marriages.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The summit was organised under the auspices of the centre-right EPP group and the Political Network for Values, a global network of politicians that oppose marriage equality.

Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, was scheduled to speak at the event's opening ceremony. But Laima Andrikiene from Lithuania, an EPP MEP and member of the Political Network for Values, explained to the audience that Tajani cancelled his participation 15 minutes before the event because of a tight schedule.

Tajani was replaced by EPP vice-chair, Romanian MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu.

The summit raised questions from socialist, green, and radical-left MEPs, including group leaders Gianni Pittella, Philippe Lamberts, and Gabriele Zimmer. They wrote to Tajani prior to the event - when his name did not yet feature in the programme - to complain.

In a letter to the president dated 5 April, they noted that the event featured homo- and transphobic groups such as the International Organisation for the Family, a US-based group with members in Australia, Nigeria, Russia and the UK, and that another one, the Spanish CitizenGO, is currently under investigation for incitement of hatred after displaying transphobic messages on bus advertisements in Madrid.

They noted that the Political Network for Values "aims to keep sexual orientation out of human rights law, a principle in direct breach of the EU’s values of equality and respect for human dignity and human rights of all of its citizens".

The MEPs also said the event could be in breach of the parliament's house rules, as some of the participants had not signed up to the EU transparency register.

"We would urge you to closely monitor the events taking place within these buildings, in order to maintain vigilance against incitements of hatred," the letter said.

"We would like to take the opportunity to remember that the European Parliament is a place of inclusion and equality; it is a place to promote EU values of equality and human dignity. We hope that you will endeavour to prevent the future promotion of defamatory language from movements hosted in the parliament of which you are president", it said.

Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the parliament's liberal group, was also asked to sign but declined.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organisation monitoring extremists in the US, also wrote to Tajani to warn him of four groups scheduled to attend the summit - the Alliance Defending Freedom, Center for Family and Human Rights, Family Watch International, and the before-mentioned International Organisation for the Family.

Tajani never replied to the MEPs' request, according to a parliamentary source, who said that MEPs were considering sending another letter next week, asking the president to clarify his role in the event.

A member of Tajani's office told EUobserver on Friday that the president had never firmly confirmed his participation in the event and that he did not participate in any public gatherings during the entire week because he was busy preparing for Saturday's European Council.

Individual MEPs and groups have the right to organise events and assume full responsibility for the content and members they invite, the staffer said.

"If members don't apply with the rules governing the activities, the president has to check that, but he doesn't intend to restrict the independence given to them by their mandate," she explained, adding that individual events do not reflect the parliament's position on LGBT rights or other issues.

"Official stances are only decided by plenary or other official bodies, such as the conference of presidents, which gathers leaders of all the political groups," she said.

Asked about Tajani's stance on gay rights, the spokeswoman said the president was "the first" to condemn the recent news of concentration camps for gay men in Chechnya.

Before the 2014 elections, however, Tajani signed a pledge by the Italian foundation Novae Terrae, which defined family as the legal union between a man and a woman.

In 1996, he tabled a question to the European Commission, saying that a child conceived by LGBT parents was "certain to have serious psychological problems and experience major difficulties in being accepted as part of society".

He also noted that "the Church has adopted a position firmly opposing such "pseudo' families", and asked the commission what it would do to protect the child's "right to live a normal life".

The article was updated at 20.06 with the response of Tajani's office.

Italy changes EU gay rights map

Decision to allow same-sex unions deleted last zone of anti-gay intolerance in western Europe. Lack of adoption rights left "bitter taste".

Lithuania helps gay Chechens flee Russia

Linas Linkevicius, foreign minister of Lithuania, said his country issued visas to two persecuted Chechens and that an international effort was underway to protect others.

Analysis

So what if the Irish PM is gay?

Taoiseach's sexual orientation has grabbed headlines, but history shows that gay politicians seldom promote LGBT rights.

In cooperation with

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Social Services ConferenceDriving Innovation in the Social Sector I 26-28 June
  2. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  3. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  5. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  6. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  7. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  8. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  9. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  10. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  11. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement