Europe warns Ukraine: anti-gay law obstacle to visa-free travel

The European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT rights today issued this press release, which confirms the observations of  the Oct. 4 blog post “Ukraine’s anti-gay bill could lead to travel restrictions”:

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European Commissioner Štefan Füle, who is responsible for EC relations with its neighbors
European Commissioner Štefan Füle, who is responsible for EC relations with its neighbors

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

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 [members of the European parliament] 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.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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