First ever strategy to fight LGBTIQ discrimination in Europe

For the first time, the EU Commission has announced a plan directed to LGBTIQ people. It is aimed at protecting them against discrimination and violence in a context of rising LGBTIQ intolerance in Hungary and Poland.

Last November 12th, Vera Jourovà, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, presented the first ever Commission strategy on LGBTIQ equality in the EU. This strategy comes as an attempt to counter the rising tensions between the LGBTIQ community and some Eastern European governments.

The first mention of this strategy had been made in the last State of the Union speech given by Ursula Von der Leyen in front of Parliament last September 16th. On this occasion, she underlined that the European Union is “a Union of equality” and that the LGBTQ-free zones go against this founding principle. She then announced that a strategy to fight LGBTIQ discriminations was going to be issued in the following months.

“Vera Jourovà” - By Martijn Beekman licensed under CC BY 2.0

To fully grasp the implications of this new strategy we first need to understand the current situation in Europe for the LGBTIQ.

To begin with, there seems to be a momentum in Western and Central European countries to fight against discrimination and violence based on sexuality. France, for instance, has issued a plan of action for the institutionalization of the rights of the LGBTIQ community. In Italy a bill ensuring LGBTIQ protection has entered the national debate and has strong chances of being implemented as it appears it has a parliamentary majority. However, although these are necessary steps to achieve equal rights for all, including LGBTIQ, they still seem too little with respect to the deterioration of rights in Hungary and Poland.

Since the beginning of last year, one third of the Polish municipalities declared themselves LGBT-free zones, meaning they got rid of the “LGBT-ideology”. This denomination has often been used by the Polish President, Andrzej Duda and other officials of his party but the meaning of that remains abstruse. As Jourovà puts it, “LGBTQ+ are people, not an ideology”. This denomination is nowadays often used by extreme right governments to diminish the LGBTIQ members. It is in itself a form of discrimination as it is used to present them as evils that endanger a country’s culture. In Europe, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, seems to follow the same path of his Polish counterpart. Even though no LGBT-free zones have been declared, the political discourse seems to increasingly concentrate on LGBTIQ community and on portraying it as one of the scapegoats for the problems of society.

“Andrzej Duda” - by Radosław Czarnecki licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

In Europe as a whole, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) communicated that there has been an increase in the declarations of discrimination. In 2019, 43% of LGBTIQ population has declared of having faced discrimination of some sorts, while in 2012 this number was 6 points lower.

So, in order to respond to the fact that basic human rights are being called into question and also in order to follow the momentum that is arising in some of its member countries, the EU issued the first strategy ever to fight LGBTIQ discrimination in Europe.

But what does this strategy consist of?

The Strategy comprises four main points that will be applied over the next five years (between 2020 and 2025). It is going to be subject to a mid-term review in 2023 and - as the EU commission said - to continuous monitoring so as to verify that the actions outlined are being implemented. The four actions are Fighting D