On 12 November 2020, EU Vice President, Věra Jourová, and the Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, launched the first EU Strategy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queers (LGBTIQ). In view of the backlash and increasing repressions in several countries, it is more necessary than ever.
Increase of discriminations
According to Eurobarometer, over the past seven years, the percentage of those LGBTIQs, who feel that they have been discriminated against in the EU, has increased from 37 % to 45 %. 58 % of those questioned in 2019, said that they had experienced harassment. At 45 % in 2012, this number was significantly lower. Whilst on EU average, the share of those who think that LGBTIQs should have the same rights as heterosexuals has seen a slight increase to 76 % since 2015, their acceptance has declined in nine Member States. In particular Poland and Hungary are making headlines with their anti-LGBT policy.
Call for financial consequences
The Commissioner for Equality, Dalli, demands financial sanctions for Member States that do not recognise the rights of LGBTIQs. Dalli emphasises: “Equality is the value of the EU, if you’re going against the value, then the EU should not fund you”. thereby hinting at the rule of law mechanism. A proposed (increased) link to the Multiannual Financial Framework led to the current blockage of the approval of the EU budget by Poland and Hungary, who want to prevent that rule of law violations against the fundamental values of the EU could more easily result in funding reductions. At the beginning of 2020 already, the EU withheld funds from Polish regions that had declared themselves “LGBT-free zones”. Ursula von der Leyen had already emphasised in her State of the Union Address that there were no “LGBT-free zones” but only “humanity-free zones“.
Priorities of the Strategy
Already existing anti-discrimination laws at EU level shall be reviewed within the scope of the Strategy and existing gaps in the protection against discrimination are to be closed. For example, the list of EU crimes shall be extended to all forms of hate crimes including hate crimes and hate speeches against LGBTIQs. Good practice exchanges shall take place between Member States, among other with reference to banning so-called “conversion therapies”, forced medicalisation of trans people and intersex genital mutilation. Apart from that, greater effort shall be made to increase the protection of LGBTIQ refugees. Furthermore, a revision of the guidelines on free movement shall ensure that these also apply to LGBTIQs and that the recognition of transgender, intersex and non-binary people will be increased. Also planned is a Commission proposal to guarantee the mutual support and recognition of rainbow families in cross-border situations, for example when moving between Member States. Apart from that, Member States shall develop their own national plans as to show how they are planning to tackle discrimination.
The European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup welcomes the Strategy. Its Co-Chair, MEP Terry Reintke (Greens), emphasised the importance of actually imposing financial sanctions against those countries that do not recognise the rights of LGBTIQs. ILGA Europe, which supports the rights of LGBTIQs at Union level, regards the Strategy as a new approach by the Commission in respect of LGBTI rights and points out that it is also necessary to counteract among other the coercion having to identify oneself as binary – either as a man or a woman. Even if there is still plenty of room for taking action, the publication of the first Strategy on LGBTIQ-equality comes at the right time and may be regarded as an important foundation stone for further measures.