European Union leaders, including Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, signed a letter pledging to fight discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people ahead of an expected confrontation with Viktor Orbán over the issue of ‘a Hungarian law widely condemned as an attack on the rights of LGBTQ + people. .
The letter published Thursday does not explicitly mention Hungary, but the timing is no coincidence and the stage is set for a tense meeting on Wednesday between the Hungarian Prime Minister and many of his counterparts at a European summit in Brussels.
Hungary’s parliament passed a bill last week that banned gay people from being shown in educational material, on prime-time television, or in children’s shows and films. The government claims the law aims to protect children, but activists and the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner say these arguments are “misleading and false”.
Addressed to the leaders of the European institutions, before the LGBTQ + Pride day on June 28, the EU letter warns against “threats to fundamental rights and in particular the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation” .
The pride festival “will be a day to remember that we are diverse and tolerant societies committed to the unhindered development of the personality of each of our citizens, including their sexual orientation and gender identity,” the letter said. , signed by a majority of European leaders including Macron, Merkel and the Italian Mario Draghi, at the initiative of the Luxembourger Xavier Bettel and the Spaniard Pedro Sánchez.
Bettel, the first EU leader to be married to a same-sex partner, has previously called on Arab leaders to crack down on gay people, but this may be the first time that a dispute over LGBTQ + rights has arisen at a European summit.
The issue could eclipse the meeting, during which leaders are expected to discuss the bloc’s response to the pandemic and resolve a dispute over how to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Charles Michel, the former Belgian Prime Minister, who chairs the EU summits, “considers it important that this point [the LGBTQ+ law] is discussed, ”said a senior EU official. “It’s a point that created a lot of emotion.
The row follows Orbán’s decision to cancel a trip to Munich to watch Germany take on Hungary in a Euro 2020 soccer match, after a debate over arched stadium lighting -in sky.
The Hungarian government is also embroiled in a war of words with the European Commission, after its president, Ursula von der Leyen, denounced the bill as “a disgrace”. Von der Leyen asked his team to send the Hungarian government a letter “to express our legal concerns before the bill comes into force” and pledged to use all the powers of the commission to defend the rights. of European citizens.
“This bill clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation,” von der Leyen said on Wednesday. “I firmly believe in a European Union where you are free to love whoever you want. “
Hours later, the Hungarian government retorted that von der Leyen’s statement was “a shame because it publishes a biased political opinion without prior and impartial investigation”.
Hungary has curtailed LGBTQ + rights over the past 12 months, fueling fears that gays are the last scapegoats for a government that has long stigmatized migrants.
Hungarian human rights activists fear a mental health crisis among young gay men because of the law, which is seen as a green light to discriminate. People who analyzed the bill say that a TV show like Friends would be relegated to a late-night slot because the presence of gay characters would be seen as promoting homosexuality.
But it was only this week that EU governments spoke out in force: 17 member states have now signed a declaration denouncing the Hungarian bill as “a blatant form of discrimination” which “deserves to be condemned “. Largely signed by the same group of countries putting their names on Thursday’s letter, the interventions reveal Orbán’s growing isolation within the EU Council, though the Hungarian leader retains the support of his ideological soulmates in Poland.