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Ursula von der Leyen pledges action against Hungary’s new anti-LGBT law

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen - Credit: European Parliament

The European Union’s chief executive has vowed to take the steps needed to stymie a new law in Hungary. 

The law in question bans content portraying homosexuality or gender reassignment to children. The Hungarian parliament passed the bill last week, 157-1, but it requires endorsement from president Áder for it to take effect. 

The government has consistently claimed that its purpose is to protect children, but its critics argue that the new law associates homosexuality with paedophilia. 

“This Hungarian bill is a shame,” said Von der Leyen at a press conference in Brussels with Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo. The pair were meeting to go over the approval of Belgium’s coronavirus recovery plan. Instead, the media questioned her on the Hungarian legislation. 

“This bill clearly discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation. It goes against the fundamental values of the European Union: human dignity, equality and respect for human rights,” she added. 

She further issued a statement saying: “I believe in a European Union where you are free to be who you are and love whomever you want. I will use all the powers of the commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed. Whoever they are and wherever they live within the European Union.”

She has given her commissioners the task of sending a letter to Hungary explaining her legal issues before the bill formally becomes law and 16 countries have now offered their support for this letter. Justice commissioner Didier Reynders and internal market commissioner Thierry Breton have been tasked with crafting the memo.

This letter will outline, in detail, their legal concerns with the law. A commission official explained that they “can only formally infringe once the law has come into force, so we are warning the Hungarians that we will do so if they don’t respond to our concerns.”

Von der Leyen’s pledge comes amidst escalating tensions between Brussels and Budapest. Due to Hungary’s democratic backsliding, the EU had previously started Article 7 disciplinary proceedings over these concerns, but this process has been halted for years.

It has not been specified yet what these specific steps against the law will entail. But, critics say the most probable scenario is that the commission will launch an infringement procedure against Hungary. 

The first course of action in this process would be to send a further letter to Budapest expressing the EU’s objections. 

This confrontation over the legislation has attracted widespread attention, across both the world and Europe, especially after the UEFA, Europe’s football governing body, banned the city of Munich from lighting the stadium in rainbow colours during Germany’s match against Hungary. 

In defiance, football stadiums across Germany were lit up with rainbow colours.