LGBT rights in Ukraine closely scrutinised as European Parliament consents to easier visa rules

Today the European Parliament gave its binding consent for easier EU visa rules for Ukrainian citizens. Members of the European Parliament had expressed serious concern about two homophobic draft laws, insisting the EU shouldn’t turn a blind eye to human rights abuses.

Claude Moraes and Sophie in 't Veld MEPs

Claude Moraes and Sophie in ‘t Veld MEPs

Since 2011, the Ukrainian Parliament has been examining two draft laws making it illegal to say homosexuality is normal, or supporting LGBT people in any way.

They are now close to being adopted, and the European Parliament expressed concern about these draft laws on several occasions.

Ahead of today’s vote, human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch and ILGA-Europe had called on the European Parliament to send the agreement back to committee, postponing the vote. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe made this request, but failed to gather a majority.

Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, reflected: “I and the ALDE group wish this vote had been postponed in order to send a strong political signal to Ukraine. We cannot deepen our relationship with a country that enacts witch-hunting laws against its minorities.”

“The mere presence of these bills on their parliament’s agenda has already justified an increase in homophobic violence. For this reason, despite free movement being dear to Liberals and Democrats, we abstained in the final vote on this report.”

Nevertheless, several MEPs and political groups made clear during the plenary debate that they wouldn’t accept any further easing of visa rules as long as homophobic laws were on the statute book

Claude Moraes MEP, European Parliament spokesperson on the EU-Ukraine visa facilitation file, added: “It was important to give our consent to this agreement, which gives Ukrainian journalists, NGOs and academics the opportunity to travel to the EU more easily. Yet when it comes to full visa liberalisation, there must be strictly no deepening of the EU-Ukraine relationship as long as these ‘anti-propaganda’ laws are on the table in the Ukrainian parliament.”

“We want to see real improvement on LGBT rights, democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine before visa liberalisation can be a reality. The EU is a community of values, and we will stand strong on these values when dealing with our neighbours.”

The European Commission had also stated that full visa liberalisation could not go ahead with these homophobic laws enacted.

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