Sixteen of the 27 EU member said they want the Commission to take action.

More than half of the member states of the European Union on Tuesday condemned the Hungarian legislation to prohibit “depicting and promoting a gender identity other than gender at birth, gender reassignment and homosexuality” for persons under the age of 18.

Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden issued a joint declaration in which they said they were “deeply concerned about the Hungarian Parliament’s adoption of amendments that discriminate against LGBTIQ people and violate the right to free speech under the guise of protecting children.”

EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

The declaration, initiated by Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, said this was “a blatant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and should therefore be condemned. Inclusion, human dignity and equality are the core values of our European Union, and we must not compromise on these principles.”

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Photo: Shutterstock

These amendments also violated freedom of expression and the freedom to receive and provide information without interference from any public authority, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the 14 governments stated. They jointly urged the European Commission, “as guardian of the Treaties”, to “ensure full respect for EU law”, including by referring the matter to the European Court of Justice. “We stand ready to protect the rights of all EU citizens”, the signatories concluded their statement. Adopted in 2000, the Charter of Fundamental Rights is today part of primary EU law. In Article 21 of the charter, discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of sexual orientation, is prohibited.

On Wednesday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a harshly worded statement. The EU executive, von der Leyen said, would look into the new law. “This Hungarian bill is a shame. I have instructed the responsible commissioners to send a letter to express our legal concerns before the bill enters into force. This bill clearly discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation. It goes against the fundamental values of the European Union. Human dignity, equality and respect for human rights. We will not compromise on these principles”, said the Commission president in her statement. She added: “I have said it before: I believe in a European Union where you are free to be who you are and love whomever you want. I believe in a Europe which embraces diversity. I will use all the powers of the Commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed. Whoever they are and where ever they live within the European Union.”

“Merely against paedophiles”

However, Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Foreign Affairs Minister, dismissed the declaration and asked critics to read the law in full. The legislation was not targeting against any community, Szijjártó said before a foreign minister meeting in Luxembourg. “This law is against all the paedophiles, so this law makes it very clear that the children must be protected, and that’s why this law makes it very clear that paedophile crimes must be punished in a very, very serious way”, he claimed. The aim was to protect the children “in a way that it makes it an exclusive right of the parents to educate their kids regarding sexual orientation until the age of 18.”

Meanwhile, a row erupted in Germany over plans by Munich’s city council to light the stadium roof in the colours of the rainbow during Wednesday’s Euro2020 match Germany v. Hungary. UEFA, the host of the European football championship, on Tuesday banned this action, saying it would politicise the match by criticising Hungary’s legislation: “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.”

EU Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas voiced exasperation at the European football governing body. He said he found “not any reasonable excuse” for UEFA to make an issue out of this, especially giving previous campaigns by UEFA to promote respect and diversity.

Author: Michael Thaidigsmann