"Europe must not be an ’LGBT-free zone’ "
Amélie de Montchalin is French secretary of state for European affairs. Michael Roth is German minister of state for Europe. Aleš Chmelař is the Czech Republic’s deputy minister for Europe.
At a time when people are speaking up against discrimination and calling for greater equality, Europe should be leading by example.
And yet, within Europe, discrimination is still all too common. With some national leaders calling into question campaigns for LGBTQ rights, it is clear that the situation of LGBTQ people remains concerning.
Europe has seen attacks on pride marches, the declaration of “LGBTI ideology-free zones” and the adoption of legislation that prohibits legal recognition and certain rights for transgender people, among other measures.
We strongly condemn all measures leading to exclusion and discrimination, and strongly disagree with the curtailment of equality and human rights, such as denying the legal recognition of one’s gender identity, which may change over time.
We are particularly alarmed by the findings of a report published by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights in May. According to the survey, 43 percent of LGBTQ people in the EU experienced discrimination over the 12 past months, an increase of six percentage points from the last survey in 2012. For transgender people, this figure has risen to 60 percent.
The fight for equal rights for all — and thus against discrimination, violence and other human rights violations against LGBTQ people — is an important priority for our governments. We strive for equal rights at home as well as internationally through our diplomatic channels, in bilateral relations and other forums. It is our common responsibility to ensure that European core values are respected, protected and promoted.
This is all the more important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is putting additional pressure on the situation of LGBTQ persons, as they are often among the most marginalized and excluded. Germany, France and the Czech Republic strongly support the joint statement of the Equal Rights Coalition calling on all governments to limit the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on people marginalized on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.
Respect for human rights and human dignity are fundamental values of the European Union, and at the heart of our European project. The EU is not only a single market or a currency union; it is first and foremost a union of common values.
This means we have the duty to combat discrimination of all kinds and ensure respect for these values within our union. Human rights and human dignity are protected only when the rights of everyone are fully respected, regardless of origin, ethnicity or sexual identity.
During its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, France drew attention to the rights of LGBTQ people. Germany, which will take over the chairmanship of the committee in November 2020, upholds that LGBTQ rights are an integral part of the human rights policy of the Council of Europe and will particularly address the problem of hate speech, which often also targets LGBTQ people. The Czech Republic supports these initiatives in line with priorities of its chairmanship in 2017 focused on gender equality.
We remain committed to fighting all types of discrimination, including against LGBTQ people, and look forward to the European Commission’s proposals in the coming months for a strategy to advancing LGBTQ Equality in the EU. We will strongly support further actions undertaken by the EU to protect and promote our common values of respect and tolerance and are ready to work closely with all member countries, parties and actors on this essential matter.
The EU can only be strong when it recognizes what it owes to diversity and enables everyone to be who they want to be and to fulfill their potential as part of a diverse European society.
Discrimination is a human rights violation that should not take place anywhere in the world. We are firmly convinced, however, that Europe should take the lead in protecting and promoting equality for everyone.