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12th Apr 2024

Fourteen EU countries condemn Hungary over anti-LGBTIQ law

Fourteen EU countries on Tuesday (22 June) called on the EU Commission to take action against Hungary over recently adopted legislation that bans the portrayal of LGBTIQ people to minors.

Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden, and Latvia joined the initiative of the Benelux countries and issued a joint statement expressing "grave concern" about the amendments which "discriminate against LGBTIQ persons and violate the right to freedom of expression under the pretext of protecting children".

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The 14 EU countries also said the legislation "represents a flagrant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression and hence deserves to be condemned".

"Inclusion, human dignity, and equality are core values of our European Union, and we cannot compromise on these principles," the countries said. They urged the EU Commission to use all tools at its disposal to ensure full respect of EU law.

The series of amendments, wrapped into a bill on protecting children, bans the portrayal and what it deems as the "promotion" of gender identity different to that from one's biological sex at birth, the change of sex, and homosexuality for under 18s.

The situation in Hungary took centre stage at an EU affairs ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

"The new Hungarian legislation undermines the fundamental values of the Europe we stand for," Belgian foreign minister Sophie Wilmès said, whose country drafted the joint statement.

"A value based union is not a menu à la carte. We have a collective responsibility to protect the rights of all EU citizens, and therefore we have a duty to speak out and respond when these rights and values are undermined," she added.

Arriving at the meeting, where a hearing on the 'Article 7' sanctions procedure against Poland and Hungary was one item on the agenda, several ministers spoke out on the Hungarian LGBTIQ law.

France's EU-affairs state secretary Clement Beaune said the legislation "clearly creates discrimination against a sexual orientation, towards homosexuality, which it equates with a form of threat or propaganda".

"We cannot accept this discourse, we cannot accept this violation of values," he added.

"The legislation is disgraceful and has no place in the EU," Irish minister for EU affairs, Thomas Byrne, tweeted later.

"The new Hungarian law doesn't conflict with European laws. It guarantees the rights of parents to decide on the sexual education of their children," Hungary's justice minister Judit Varga tweeted during the meeting, arguing that the law does not interfere with the lives of adults and was, in that sense, not discriminatory.

"It is not a European value to carry out sexual propaganda on our children. Our value is to respect the freedom of opinion of families and to guarantee the undisturbed upbringing of our children free of any sexual lobby interference," Varga tweeted during the meeting.

Inside the room the discussion was "very, very difficult", as described by the Irish minister later.

According to diplomatic sources, the debate was "quite emotional".

Varga defended the Hungarian government's vision of a traditional family, while other ministers expressed concern that homosexuality was compared to paedophilia in the Hungarian legislation.

The discussion on Poland stirred less emotion.

EU Commission vice-president Vera Jourova recounted to the ministers the persisting concerns over the Polish judicial independence, particularly over the government's respect for the primacy of EU law, and measures to discipline and censure judges.

Rainbow ban

Meanwhile, the outcry over Hungary's legislation came as the European football association, UEFA, faced a backlash after rejecting Munich's request to light up its stadium in rainbow colours in support of the LGBTIQ community, as the German city hosts Hungary's national team on Wednesday.

Munich mayor Dieter Reiter had said he wanted to light up the stadium in the colours in protest against the new law in Hungary.

In a statement, UEFA said it cannot grant the request because of the "political context", saying it is a "politically and religiously neutral" organisation.

"Given the political context of this specific request - a message aiming at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament - UEFA must decline this request," it said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

Several other German cities have pledged to light up their stadiums in rainbow colours. The Munich mayor called the UEFA decision "shameful" and said that the city hall will be flying rainbow colours instead.

Hungary's foreign minister Péter Szijjartó welcomed the football body's decision, saying "mixing politics and sport" was "harmful and dangerous", and praised UEFA for not playing along with what he called the "political provocation".

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