[WATCH] Malta MEPs are centre-stage in push to make EU an LGBTI ‘freedom zone’

MEPs want to declared the EU an LGBTI ‘freedom zone’, a symbolic move to stand up against right-wing governments’ increased scapegoating of LGBTI people

Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer (left) and Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola
Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer (left) and Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola

MEPs want to declared the EU an LGBTI ‘freedom zone’, a symbolic move to stand up against right-wing governments’ increased scapegoating of LGBTI people.

Both Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer and Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola have taken centre-stage in the initiative.

“We will bring all that we have achieved in our country, to the rest of Europe. Malta is the European model of civil liberties,” Engerer said, after having openly confronted MEPs in the European Parliament from the Hungarian right-wing Fidesz about homophobia.

European Parliament vice-president Roberta Metsola led the debate in the EP, drafting a resolution on behalf of the European People’s Party. “We are here today to tell abusers both off and online, that you will not find safe haven here,” she said in a hard-hitting speech on declaring the EU an LGBTIQ Freedom Zone. “We have just marked Woman’s Day and as a woman I understand the importance of having allies in a struggle. Of being an ally. This is not about one community versus another. It is about all of us moving forward together. And we cannot move when so many are left behind.”

She described herself as a Christian-democrat, Southern European wife and mother of four who believed in respecting tradition “and so, our values. All of our values.”

“Today we are here to tell all those in the LGBTIQ community that this is your Europe too.  To tell all those parents worried about the safety of their LGBTIQ children, that we have their back. To tell every girl and boy that in this Europe, you can be whoever you want to be, wherever you want to be - and our Union - and this House - will protect that right.  To tell those struggling that you do not have to ‘adjust yourself to injustice’.”

The debate comes in reaction to developments over the past two years in Poland, where almost 100 municipalities declared themselves free of “LGBTI ideology”.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán wrote that he wanted to build a new “European democratic right” for citizens “who have not descended into LGBTQ lunacy”.

Wednesday’s resolution was backed by five parties in the parliament and is expected to be passed on Thursday. The parliament’s draft points to discrimination of LGBTI people in Poland and says that the fundamental rights of LGBTI people have been "severely hindered" in Hungary, which recently banned legal recognition for transgender and intersex people.

“May this vote be the starting point of an unstoppable counter-attack of freedom against hatred in every corner of our union,” liberal MEP Pierre Karleskind from France, who initiated the resolution, said.

“The EU Commission and member states must no longer silently tolerate the hate-fuelled campaign against LGBTIQ in other member states. They must make clear that there is no place for it within the EU," German Green MEP Rasmus Andresen noted.

MEP Ryszard Legutko, from the Polish ruling party Law and Justice, described the debate as “absurd”.

“The parliament is only interested in its ideology. They want to assert all of this at any price, they are denying freedom in this manner,” he said, adding that family policy was a member-state competence. “Western Europe is engaging in ideological propaganda, at kindergarten age you want to introduce ridiculous stories about gender,” Legutko said.

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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