Thursday

7th Jul 2022

Hungary and Poland: EU capitals of homophobia

  • 'Fight for equality in Europe is, regrettably, a live one,' Guy Verhofstadt said (Photo: QueenSunshine)

Hungary and Poland have come out as the EU capitals of homophobia by boycotting a gay rights declaration.

Hungary's employment minister and Poland's "family minister" were the only ones who declined to back the text in Brussels on Thursday (6 December), which urged the creation of a "safe" environment on the internet for young "LGBTIQ persons" and other minorities.

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

  • The European Commission sponsored an EU boat at Amsterdam Pride two years ago (Photo: Bob Lefevere)

Austria, which chaired the EU meeting, and the other 25 member states, published it anyway, but Hungary and Poland's defiance meant the document was downgraded to an informal status.

"LGBTIQ inclusion and equality are core values of our European Union. This is where I draw the line. We will never compromise our principles," Dutch social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees said.

"The debates were really tough," an Austrian spokeswoman said.

"We really tried to find common ground here. If you have member states that block it, I think it's unfair to project that on the presidency," she added.

In another snub to Hungary and Poland, 19 EU states, led by Malta, backed a second declaration the same day, which called for the European Commission to draft an LGBTIQ rights strategy in 2020.

Their embassies tweeted out messages with rainbow emojis, the hashtag #LoveisLove, and comments such as Belgium's: "Together we say 'no' to discrimination on grounds of gender or sexuality".

Hungary and Poland's veto of the EU declaration was "regrettable", but the EU26 text showed "the EU cannot be taken hostage by two countries and be forced to dismantle agreed non-discrimination standards," Katrin Hugendubel from Ilga-Europe, a gay-rights NGO in Brussels, said.

The EU26 and EU19 texts meant Europe was "drawing a line" on values, in "very reassuring" developments, Ilga-Europe's Evelyne Paradis added.

Some would have liked to see more signatures on the EU19 text.

"It's worrying that so many EU countries didn't [sign]. This shows the fight for equality in Europe is, regrettably, a live one," Guy Verhofstadt, a leading Belgian liberal MEP, said.

But Thursday's events still left Budapest and Warsaw looking like they were out in the cold.

Both of their right-wing governments have a track record of blocking EU gay rights texts.

Poland, which has one of the worst scores on gay rights in Ilga-Europe's ranking, did it in October when it stopped the EU from signing off on Europe's Fundamental Rights Charter.

Hungary fares better in the Ilga-Europe ranking, but it also blocked adoption of an EU gay rights action plan in 2016.

They say EU gay rights activism impinges on their sovereignty and goes against conservative values in Hungarian and Polish society.

But other Roman Catholic countries and Orthodox Christian ones, such as Italy and Spain or Greece and Cyprus, saw no problem in signing both EU texts on Thursday.

Hungary and Poland's ruling Fidesz and Law and Justice parties mix homophobic rhetoric, with xenophobic, antisemitic, and eurosceptic language at home.

They are also embroiled in EU sanctions procedures on abuse of rule of law and in court cases on boycotts of EU decisions on taking in Muslim migrants.

But if Thursday's rebellion further eroded their political capital in mainstream EU circles, then the rainbow-emoji tweeting member states also fell short of full support for gay rights.

Bill still stuck

Among other issues, the meeting took stock of an EU anti-discrimination bill meant to extend protection of LGBTIQ people and other minorities from the workplace to broader "access to goods and services".

The directive has been blocked in the EU Council for years, in the past by Germany, which quibbled over the cost of installing wheelchair access in bars and cafes.

"Two delegations have maintained a general reservation on the proposal as such," the Austrian EU presidency said after Thursday's discussion, hinting, once again, at Hungary and Poland.

But "for the time being, all delegations have maintained scrutiny reservations on the text," it noted.

"Extensive further political discussions will be needed before the required unanimity can be reached in the Council," Austria said.

Gay rights under threat in divided Europe

From same-sex marriage in Malta to horrors in Azerbaijan - survey shows huge disparities on gay rights in Europe, amid "stagnating" progress and populist threats.

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.

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not OK, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

Opinion

Romania — latest EU hotspot in backlash against LGBT rights

Romania isn't the only country portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a threat to children. From Poland and Hungary in EU, to reactionary movements around the world are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools.

News in Brief

  1. Danish ministers no longer allowed to delete text messages
  2. Report: British PM Johnson to resign today
  3. British PM defiant amid spate of resignations
  4. France says EU fiscal discipline rules 'obsolete'
  5. Russia claims untouchable status due to nuclear arsenal
  6. Catalan MEPs lose EU court case over recognition
  7. 39 arrested in migrant-smuggling dragnet
  8. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Johnson quits, leaving Brexit headaches to successor
  2. Is Orban holding out an olive branch to EPP?
  3. EU should freeze all EU funds to Hungary, says study
  4. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  5. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  6. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  7. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  8. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us