European Commission: Ukraine’s anti-gay law obstacle to visa-free travel

The European Commission has now said that Ukraine’s proposed anti-gay law would jeopardise prospects of visa liberalisation with the European Union.

Commissioner Štefan Füle

The Ukrainian Parliament began examining Bill 8711 late in 2011. The draft law would criminalise publicly supporting the rights of LGBT persons with fines and up to five years’ imprisonment.

MEPs repeatedly voiced concerns, including in a resolution, that this law would unacceptably limit freedom of expression and assembly.

They recently asked the European Commission whether adopting Bill 8711 would be compatible with the EU-Ukraine agreement on visa liberalisation, which would allow Ukrainian citizens visa-free travel in the EU.

In reply, Štefan Füle stated on behalf of the Commission:

The EU has expressed deep disappointment and concern that the Parliament of Ukraine has decided to revert to discussing the draft law 8711. […]

Such legislative initiative – i.e. draft law 8711 – stands in contradiction to the requirements of the relevant benchmarks of the [EU-Ukraine Visa Liberalization] Action Plan.

The Commission has noted the positions expressed by Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsperson, which have highlighted similar concerns and have signalled their expectation that the Parliament in its further consideration of this legislative initiative would take into full consideration Ukraine’s international commitments.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee recently ruled that such laws were incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Ukraine ratified.

The Commission’s position echoes that of many MEPs, as well as the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, who affirmed earlier this year the Netherlands would veto the visa agreement should this law pass.

The European Parliament will vote on a resolution on Ukraine next week in Strasbourg.

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