The European Commission’s new LGBTI Equality Strategy has to go beyond the traditional trajectory of striving for rights for sexual and gender minorities. To tackle the problems the LGBTI-community is facing in Central and Eastern Europe, a comprehensive and geopolitical approach will be instrumental.
The Polish and Hungarian government started a cultural war, and they have put the LGBTI-community in the frontline. This year, LGBTI-activists have been detained in member states of the European Union on the grounds of ‘blasphemy’ and ‘desecration’. Money of European tax payers – amongst them at least 13.5 million identifying as LGBTI – is still flowing into the hands of officials declaring their cities or regions LGBTI Free Zones.
Those who believe Kaczyński and Orbán attack the LGBTI-community out of religious reasons are wrong. Nor Orbán – nor Kaczyński care about sexuality or gender. They scapegoat sexual and gender minorities to legitimise their undemocratic behaviour – just as every autocrat in history scapegoated a minority. Portraying the LGBTI-community as the biggest threat to the country helps them undermining democracy.
To prevent the LGBTI-community from being further scapegoated by autocrats within the EU, I summed up this four demands to be incorporated in the LGBTI Equality Strategy:
First – while Hungary and Poland refuse to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), it is in the interest of LGBTI-equality to make sure LGBTI-citizens are protected by EPPO. Therefore, both the European Commissioner for Equality and the European Commissioner for Justice should cooperate to enlarge EPPO’s responsibilities and geographical outreach.
Second – the opening on ‘rule of law’-conditionality by the recent European Council Conclusions on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the COVID-19 Recovery Fund, should be further amplified. Upholding minority rights and European values should be a requirement for every European funding opportunity.
Third – Government officials and state propaganda have been responsible for spreading lies about the LGBTI-community across the EU. The monitoring of multi-channel fake news on LGBTI-topics has to be incorporated in the European Commission’s efforts to tackle disinformation.
Fourth – Ultraconservative militias across the EU have collaborated with the Russian Federation in their fight against LGBTI-equality. Both oligarchs linked to the Kremlin and the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies are involved in EU-based governmental and non-governmental anti-LGBTI missions. I call upon the European Commission to start a counter-attack in cooperation with the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the national intelligence services on the cultural frontline of the war that’s being waged by Russia. It is in the interest of LGBTI-citizens to elaborate on the European Magnitsky Act.
A Europe without values is not worthy to be called a Union. The EU has to intervene in Poland and Hungary to protect its LGBTI-citizens – as it protected its banks by intervening in Greece during the financial crisis. It is time for the EU to stand up for its values.
As Pastor Martin Niemöller said after World War II: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I am speaking out for my LGBTI-fellows in Poland and Hungary. Will you join me?