Saturday , 18 January 2020

European Parliament adds LGBTI rights to neighbourhood policy

European Neighbourhood Policy. Image credit: © Bertelsmann Stiftung
European Neighbourhood Policy. Image credit: © Bertelsmann Stiftung

In a major boost to global LGBTI rights, the European Parliament voted on Thursday to emphasise the rights of minorities in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

The Parliament emphasised the ENP action plan would “need to focus on strengthening and consolidating … respect for diversity and the rights of minorities, including … the rights of LGBTI persons.”

The ENP is how the EU works with its southern and eastern neighbours, and is a key part of the EU’s foreign policy.  It has a budget of more than €15 billion (2014-2020), part of which goes to civil society.

The policy was set up after the 2004 enlargement round, with the objective of creating a “ring of friends” around the European Union.

There are 16 states within the ENP, with 12 states currently bound by its action plan. Within the 12 states, Egypt, Morocco, Palestine (in Gaza but not in the West Bank), Tunisia outlaw same-sex acts with up to several years imprisonment.

While in most other countries same-sex acts might be legal but LGBTI citizens are denied most or almost all other equality rights (anti-discrimination, partnership/marriage, gender reassignment, adoption, etc…).

Of the four applicant states to the ENP’s action plan, Algeria, Libya and Syria punish same-sex acts with imprisonment while Belarus denies most rights and has one of Europe’s most repressive anti-LGBTI policies, on par with Russia’s.

Ian Duncan MEP for the Scottish Conservative Party and Vice President of the EU Intergroup on LGBTI Rights (ILGBTIR) welcomed the move, telling KaleidoScot: “I am pleased that Parliament voted to endorse this report, which will help civil society tackle intolerance and prejudice.

“The funding must be allocated wisely and targeted where it is most needed.”

Alyn Smith MEP Scottish National Party and member of ILGBTIR told KaleidoScot:  “This is superb news and shows how the EU can be powerful force on the world stage.

“Partner countries agree with the EU on an ENP action plan to demonstrate their commitment to democracy, human rights, sustainable development, and so on, and the EY helps them to achieve these objectives.

“In a world where some countries make homophobia an active part of their domestic policy, I’m pleased to see Europe using the full clout of its economic power to counter these attitudes.”

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-President of ILGBTIR, added: “Too many people in our neighbourhood face discrimination and violence for their sexual orientation or gender identity. In some cases this is endorsed by laws criminialising homosexuality, or supported by homophobic politicians.

“I am glad the parliament by this report has ensured that this will be taken up by the ENP”

Tanja Fajon MEP, Vice-President of ILGBTIR, continued: “This report recognises the need to improve the situation for LGBTI people in our neighbourhood.”

“It gives the European Commission and all EU delegations in the ENP countries the mandate to tackle discrimination and work with civil society to change the situation for the better.”

About Dan Littauer

Dan Littauer is a journalist who specializes in LGBTI current affairs, travel writing, feature writing and investigative journalism. He is a correspondent for LGBTQ Nation, ManAboutWorld, and previously worked for Gay Star News, PinkNews, San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, Gay Middle East, Lonely Planet as well as contributing occasionally to the BBC, Al-Jazeera, CNN and The Guardian. He also had an extensive career outside journalism, which included teaching psychoanalysis and social science, and consultancy work for the travel market. When he is not busy writing, he can be spotted rambling around the stunning Scottish landscape, where he lives, spending time at home with his cat.

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