Tuesday

23rd May 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.

In cooperation with

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  2. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  4. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  5. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  7. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  8. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  9. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  10. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  11. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCABanishing Bias? Audit, Objectivity and the Value of Professional Scepticism
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Oslo Climate Declaration Focuses on Rising Temperatures in the Arctic
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceAbdominal Obesity: A Causal Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases
  4. EU Green Week 2017Discuss EU Environmental Policies With Industry Experts and Thought Leaders
  5. GEN Summit 2017Join the World's Leading Media Summit for Thought-Provoking Talks and Experiences
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsTogether for Human Rights: A Year in Review
  7. Malta EU 2017EU All Set for Free Roaming Starting 15 June
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersRefugee Unemployment Biggest Drain on Public Purse, Says New Nordic Studies
  9. Dialogue Platform17,000 Women, 515 Babies in Turkish Prisons, a Report Reveals
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  11. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  12. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change