What does the European Commission’s LGBTIQ Equality Strategy mean for CEE?

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1/15/21

For most of emerging Europe, LGBTIQ rights and social inclusion remain contentious issues with no clear path forward. Poland and Hungary especially have seen a sharp rise in anti-LGBTIQ rhetoric and policies that have worried many activists and analysts. In November of 2020, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a new LGBTIQ Equality Strategy, the first of its kind, which aims to bolster LGBTIQ rights across the European Union by fighting discrimination, ensuring safety, protecting the rights of “rainbow” families, and promoting LGBTIQ rights around the world. The strategy has been in the works for nearly a decade, says Ana Munoz Padros, communication officer at ILGA-Europe, an advocacy group promoting the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people at the European level. “Although the worrying trends in Hungary and Poland have revealed how much of a pressing need the strategy is, it is not in itself a response to the current context in these countries,” she tells Emerging Europe. Despite not being a direct response, the timing – and the fact that the EU is taking such a stance – does feel somewhat pointed. “The Challenging situation in Poland, both in terms of declining democratic standards and increasing homophobia fuelled by the public authorities have definitely helped to push the EU to adopting an LGBTIQ strategy,” says Mirosława Makuchowska, programme vice-director of Campaign Against Homophobia in Poland. Across the region, most activists have reacted positively on the announcement. “We welcome the European Commission’s decision to create a strategy on LGBTIQ equality. We believe that it is a long-needed initiative and we’re happy that it is finally coming to life,” says Gloriya Filipova, project coordinator at Bilitis, a Bulgarian NGO. Still, even with the strategy now in place, it remains to be seen exactly what impact it will have on a region where LGBTIQ rights have always been an especially touchy issue.

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