‘Grotesque’: EU countries condemn Hungary for its anti-LGBTQ law
EU ministers held a hearing on Hungary’s respect for the rule of law – the Article 7 procedure – at yesterday’s General Affairs Council (22 June). The last hearing for Hungary was in December 2019. Since then, additional issues have arisen, the latest being a law that stigmatizes the LGBTIQ community.
This last question would have generated a heated discussion at the meeting. The Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg) issued a joint declaration (see below) expressing their deep concern over the adoption of amendments that discriminate against LGBTIQ people and violate the right to freedom of expression under the pretext of protecting children. The statement describes this as “a blatant form of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression … Inclusion, human dignity and equality are core values of our European Union, and we must not compromise on these principles. “
Today (23 June), following a first analysis of the proposal, European Commission President von der Leyen announced that a letter would be sent to Hungary expressing legal concerns about the changes before their Coming into force. Von der Leyen described it as a disgrace. The Luxembourg Minister for Foreign Affairs called him “unworthy of Europe” and declared “we are no longer in the Middle Ages”.
Besides the Benelux countries, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden and Latvia also endorsed this declaration. Today, Italy, Greece, Austria and Cyprus added their support for the declaration raising the number to 17. Portugal expressed support but as the holder of the Presidency felt it had to remain neutral.
Hungary and the rule of law
The European Parliament launched the Article 7 process following the failure of the European Commission to initiate the procedure. The Sargentini report covered a wide range of issues relating to the “rule of law”, from the functioning of the constitutional and electoral system, the independence of the judiciary, corruption and conflicts of interest, academic freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of association and the right to equal treatment.
Yesterday’s discussions included other new developments outside of the discriminatory LGBTIQ law. Regarding judicial independence, there have been appointments to the Constitutional and Supreme Court which have been strongly criticized for ignoring the negative opinion of the National Judicial Council. Regarding media independence, the government refused to renew the broadcasting license of independent radio Klubradio. The Commission has launched an infringement procedure on the latter issue.
The European Commission sent a letter this afternoon. The letter invokes the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which provides for non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but the Charter only applies to member states when they are implementing EU law. Therefore, the letter refers to the effect of the law on the freedom to provide services (Article 56, TFEU), the freedom to provide goods, such as books and magazines (Articles 34 and 36, TFEU) and EU directives on electronic commerce and audiovisual media services. here is a connect.
We are deeply concerned by the adoption by the Hungarian Parliament of amendments that discriminate against LGBTIQ people and violate the right to freedom of expression under the pretext of protecting children.
These amendments to a number of Hungarian laws (Child Protection Law, Commercial Advertising Law, Media Law, Family Protection Law and Public Education Law) prohibit “the representation and promotion of a gender identity other than birth sex, gender reassignment and homosexuality” for persons under the age of 18.
This is a blatant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and should therefore be condemned. Inclusion, human dignity and equality are fundamental values of our European Union, and we must not compromise on these principles.
These amendments also violate freedom of expression, by restricting the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference from any public authority, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
The stigmatization of LGBTIQ people is a blatant violation of their fundamental right to dignity, as enshrined in the EU Charter and international law.
In addition to the discussions in the General Affairs Council, we urge the European Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, to use all the instruments at its disposal to ensure full respect for EU law, including by bringing cases before the Court of Justice European.
We are ready to protect the rights of all EU citizens.