Tuesday

24th Nov 2020

Tension over Europe's gay rights role

  • ILGA co-chairs Linda Freimane and Martin Christensen were speaking at the body's 14th annual meeting in The Hague (Photo: Bamshad Houshyani)

Gay rights organisations openly acknowledge the crucial role played by European institutions in securing recent advances in the area, but concerns over top-down decision making and rising bureaucracy tell a more nuanced backstory.

Delegates at the 14th ILGA-Europe annual conference in The Hague on Thursday (28 October) also expressed fears over growing social conservatism in a post-recession Europe, and pointed to the recent Roma debacle as highlighting divergences between EU legislation and implementation on the ground.

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

"This year's pride marches have been success stories ... despite confrontations," said Linda Freimane, co-chair of the international umbrella group which represents over 300 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex organisations.

A Council of Europe recommendation agreed in March was also widely heralded as an important new tool for activists fighting discrimination linked to sexual orientation or gender identity.

The European Court of Human Rights referred to the non-binding text in a landmark decision this October when it ruled against Moscow's decision to ban gay pride marches in recent years.

"These strong statements give ILGA a great help at national level," said Martin Christensen, also an ILGA co-chair.

Hopes have not died out for the currently-stalled EU equal treatment directive, and outspoken comments by EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding have contributed to the optimism.

"We have a very strong commissioner who speaks her mind," said the secretary of the European Women's Lobby, Myria Vassiliadou. "Now we need to help her to speak our mind."

European Commission official Detlev Boeing outlined how EU enlargement criteria where helping to promote gay rights in countries hoping to join the Union, but conceded there are still "serious shortcomings" on implementation.

The commission is set to issue progress reports for EU candidate countries Turkey, Croatia, Iceland and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia next month, together with EU hopefuls Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo. The commission will also issue two opinions on Albania and Montenegro.

Weakening at the grassroots level?

Privately a number of delegates registered concerns related to the growing role played by European institutions in promoting gay rights however.

"The EU is moving into the old role of NGOs and pushing the agenda," one gay-rights activist told this website in the conference margins. "If we don't follow their agenda funding can be cut."

A second activist agreed that, while largely positive, EU funding also had its downsides. "The increased bureaucracy is killing some grassroots activity. It takes up a huge amount of time," they said.

A third NGO worker shared similar feelings, also wishing to remain anonymous due to sensitivities in the area. "It is important to work at the EU level. For example the commission enlargement progress reports have been very important for positive change in Croatia," they said.

"But it is also important that NGOs know what they want and then try to influence the commission. Sometimes the reverse happens and this is bad," they added.

An EU source denied there was an active attempt by Brussels to dictate gay-rights policy. "We aim to put pressure on states, not NGOs. There may be internal decisions by rights groups to seeking funding, but we have no hidden agenda to dominate policy," they said.

EU court bars tests for gay asylum seekers

Authorities in EU countries can no longer impose controversial psychological tests to determine whether an aslyum seeker is telling the truth about their homosexuality.

LGBTI protection still lacking in EU

Despite some welcome advances, some legal rights for the LGBTI community are lacking in EU member states, and the rise of the populist right is making things worse, conference in Warsaw is told.

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. There is 'no Russia-Turkey alliance'
  2. EU air quality improves, but pollution levels still high
  3. 'Golden Passports': Malta takes 67 days to respond to EU
  4. Covid-19: Romania's rural kids hit hardest by pandemic
  5. 'We call on the EU to appoint a Horn of Africa envoy'
  6. Berlin Foreign Policy Forum 2020
  7. EU stands by anti-Covid drug, despite WHO doubts
  8. Russia is 'pre-eminent naval power' in Mediterranean

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us