BREAKING NEWS
This content is not available in your region

Europe's week: Hungary's LGBT law dominates agenda

Access to the comments Comments
By Euronews
euronews_icons_loading
Europe's week: Hungary's LGBT law dominates agenda
Copyright  TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP or licensors
Text size Aa Aa

The week began with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen giving the green light to Italy's €191.5 billion pandemic recovery plan in Rome.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi described the moment as an incredible opportunity.

"It is a day of pride for our country. We have put together an ambitious reform plan. An investment plan that aims to make Italy a fairer, more competitive and more sustainable country in its growth," the Italian premier said.

The plan totals €68.9 billion in grants and €122.6 billion in loans, and must include at least 37% of expenditure in investments and reforms that support climate objectives and 20% towards the digital transition. These requirements are met, with 37% and 25% respectively.

It is part of a €750 billion package that the 27 EU member states agreed to last year to help repair the economic and social damage caused by COVID-19.

Hungary LGBT law controversy

Most of the week was dominated by Hungary's controversial anti-LGBT law in the build up to Thursday and Friday's EU leaders' summit.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg led the charge against the legislation on Tuesday as European affairs ministers from the 27 EU countries met to discuss the rule of law.

In total, 16 member states out of 27 voiced their disapproval of the Hungarian law.

Last week, the Hungarian parliament passed a new law tabled by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that bans the portrayal of homosexuality and sex reassignment in school education material and TV programmes addressed to people under 18 years of age.

Von der Leyen said: "The Hungarian bill is a shame. This bill clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. And it goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union, and this is human dignity, it is equality, and is the human fundamental rights."

The Hungarian government responded to this declaration by saying Ursula von der Leyen is a shame herself.

The issue spilled over into football too at the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament after the footballing body refused a request by the mayor of Munich to light up the stadium where Germany and Hungary were playing their final group stage match, saying it is a political symbol.

Final summit before summer

In a very tense, and at times emotional, European summit, EU leaders joined forces against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán over his government's new anti-LGBT law, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte going as far as suggesting Hungary should leave the bloc if it doesn't agree with the EU's core values.

It was the first time that LGBT+ rights took centre stage in the European Council.

Leaders came together to raise concerns and objections to the Hungarian law and had a chance to listen to Viktor Orbán's explanations, which didn't suffice to satisfy them.

Only Poland showed support for Orbán, while Slovakia chose not to speak up. The other EU leaders took the floor, leaving the Hungarian premier isolated and corralled.

Rutte, a long-time critic of Viktor Orbán, struck a defiant note in line with the comments he made right before the summit, when he suggested that if Hungary goes ahead with the law "then as far as I am concerned, then there is nothing left for them in the EU".

"The goal is to force Hungary to its knees regarding this issue. They have to understand that they are either part of the European Union and the community of shared values we are," Rutte said, noting that if the European Union forgets about fundamental rights, it will be nothing but a trading bloc with a common currency.

Luxembourg's PM Xavier Bettel, the only openly gay EU leader, called on his colleagues to fight intolerance with intolerance.

"You have to know we have a lot of young people who commit suicide because they don't accept themselves how they are and so, to be nationally blamed, to be considered not normal; to be considered a danger for young people, it's not realising that being gay is not a choice, but being intolerant is a choice and I will stay intolerant to intolerance and this will be my fight today," Bettel said.

Putin summit rejected

The other big development at the summit was an outright rejection to the proposal by the French and German governments to restart summit meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The short-lived idea, unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hours before the summit, failed to gather enough support, despite the momentum gained after US President Joe Biden's highly publicised meeting with President Putin in Geneva.

"It is not enough that the American president speaks to the Russian president. The European Union must also create different formats of discussion [with Moscow]," Angela Merkel said Thursday.

"Conflicts can be better resolved, as we have seen with the US President, when people talk to each other," she later added on arrival in Brussels.

But the Baltic States, Poland and other Russia-sceptic member states were vehemently opposed to resuming dialogue with the Russian leader and didn't appreciate the abrupt proposal made by Paris and Berlin. They argued the time was not right for rapprochement because Moscow is stepping up aggressive actions against EU countries.

At the end of the day, their opposition proved impossible to overcome and both Markel and Macron had to give up, offering a rare rebuke to the German-French alliance.