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Hungary's anti-LGBT law is a 'shame' says Ursula von der Leyen

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By Euronews
President von der Leyen asked her team to send a formal letter to the Hungarian government.
President von der Leyen asked her team to send a formal letter to the Hungarian government.   -   Copyright  Michael Sohn/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has asked her executive to send a formal letter to the Hungarian government to clarify the content of a recent anti-LGBT law.

Hungarian lawmakers approved this month a bill that makes it illegal to portray homosexuality and sex reassignment in school education material and television programmes targeted at people under the age of 18.

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán argues the law primarily targets paedophilia.

The conflation between the LGBT community and paedophiles has been harshly denounced by human rights experts and civil society for perpetuating damaging stereotypes.

"This Hungarian bill is a shame," von der Leyen said on Wednesday morning.

"I’ve instructed my responsible [European] Commissioners to write a letter to the Hungarian authorities expressing our legal concerns before the bill enters into force.

"This bill clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and it goes against all the fundamental values of the European Union.

"This is human dignity, it is equality and it’s the human fundamental rights. So we will not compromise on these principles."

Von der Leyen made the comments next to Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo during a formal visit where she presented the Commission's green light to Belgium's national recovery and resilience plan under Next Generation EU.

"I strongly believe in a European Union where you are free to love whom you want. And I believe in a European Union that embraces diversity. This is the foundation of our values," she said.

"I will use all the powers of the Commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed, whoever you are and wherever you live."

The letter was sent mere hours after von der Leyen's speech and was signed by Didier Reynders, Commissioner for justice, and Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the single market.

The two officials demand Hungary's Justice Minister Judit Varga to clarify several aspects of the law that relate, on the one hand, to fundamental rights, and, on the other hand, to the free movement of goods and services of the audiovisual media sector.

The President's remarks follow a critical statement signed by 14 EU member states, led by the Benelux countries, that expressed "grave concern" over the Hungarian law.

"It represents a flagrant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and hence deserves to be condemned. Inclusion, human dignity and equality are core values of our European Union, and we cannot compromise on these principals," they wrote on Tuesday.

The Hungarian government responded to Von der Leyen's comments on Wednesday.

"The statement by the President of the European Commission is a shame because it is based on false allegations," Budapest said in a statement.

"The recently adopted Hungarian bill protects the rights of children, guarantees the rights of parents and does not apply to the sexual orientation rights of those over 18 years of age, so it does not contain any discriminatory elements."

"The statement by the President of the Commission is a shame because it publishes a biased political opinion without a previously conducted, impartial inquiry," it went on.

Reacting to the coordinated move, Péter Szijjártó, Hungary's Foreign Affairs Minister, also dismissed all negative opinions and asked critics to read the law in full.

"This law is not against any community in Hungary," Szijjártó said.

"This law is against all the paedophiles so this law makes it very clear that the children must be protected and that's why this law makes it very clear that paedophile crimes must be punished in a very, very serious way."