The mini-conference STILL MUCH TO BE DONE was a side event to the European IDAHO Forum in Copenhagen. The purpose of the conference was to bring together key players in European LGBTI politics for a discussion on the shortcomings in implementation of politics and policies.
STILL MUCH TO BE DONE
European mini-conference on the occasion of IDAHOT
Copenhagen, Christiansborg (Parliament), Tuesday, May 10th, 2016
In the panels
Helena Dalli, Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs, and Civil Liberties, Malta
Wester Meijdam, European Commission, DG Justice and Consumers
Ben Baks, Senior Policy Adviser, Gender & LGBT Equality Department, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Netherlands
Eleni Tsetsekou, Head of Unit, SOGI Issues, Council of Europe
Dennis van der Veur, Head of Sector Consultation & Cooperation, Fundamental Rights Agency
Julia Ehrt, Executive Director, TGEU – Transgender Europe
Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director, ILGA-Europe
Video comments by
Nils Muižnieks, CoE Commissioner for Human Rights
Ulrike Lunacek, MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament, Co-President of Intergroup on LGBTI Rights
Moderator: Ulrika Westerlund, former chair of RFSL
Host: Yildiz Akdogan, MP
Why the conference?
For many years Europe has been a key actor in the development of LGBTI rights. At the same time European borders widened protection of LGBTI rights developed and were woven into the fabric of the institutionalised Europe.
But now EU is in a bad shape. Financial troubles, dissociating referenda, consciousness-bending responses to the refugee situation. Furthermore, the Council of Europe (CoE), the human rights foundation of the continent, is challenged, e.g. by open discussions by states about leaving the European Convention on Human Rights
We have seen truly great results in the LGBTI area. Requirements enforced on accession states and members of the EU Commission, references in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and directives, activities in the European Parliament, the list of actions by the Commission, CoE recommendations by the Committee of Ministers and by PACE, Court of Human Rights decisions, issue papers by the Human Rights commissioner and the Fundamental Rights Agency and much more.
But we also see a reluctance to implement policies on a national level, the vetoing of the Commission’s List of Actions by the Hungarian government, hesitation on implementing Court of Human Rights decisions. We see an outspoken dissonance between liberal voices in West and traditionalist voices in East.
We need to talk about this.
Ulrike Lunacek, MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament, Co-President of Intergroup on LGBTI Rights:
Nils Muižnieks, CoE Commissioner for Human Rights:
Photos: Poul Petrof
at the 4th European IDAHO Forum, May 11, 2016, on the STILL MUCH TO BE DONE mini-conference, May 10, 2016
We are the chairs of the three civil society organisations: LGBT Denmark, Copenhagen Pride, and Sabaah. Together our organisations are making a number of side events during the European IDAHO Forum.
The first took place yesterday where we had a pre-conference, which many of you attended, “Still much to be done”. Here, Helena Dalli, the minister from Malta, Ben Baks of the Dutch government, Wester Meijdam of the European Commission, Eleni Tsetsekou of the Council of Europe’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit, Dennis van der Veur of the Fundamental Rights Agency, and Julia Ehrt and Evelyne Paradis, executive directors of Transgender Europe and ILGA-Europe respectively, discussed the situation of the development and implementation of LGBTI politics and policies in Europe.
There was a general understanding that we have come far in Europe: Three years ago no Member States were calling for action – today there are 27 Member States supporting the list of actions. The Focal Point network has gone from 3 to 29 countries in ten years.
But there are also indicators that there is still much to be done: only 13 countries have national action plans.
Though one might be disappointed with the sometimes vague or outright non-existent implementation of European policies, such as the Committee of Ministers’ major 2010 recommendation, we should not despair. The very existence of the Council of Europe’s SOGI unit is a result of processes around the recommendation. And the existence of the IDAHO Forum is a result of the work of the Focal Point network. We should cherish such very important results when were getting all sweaty in the political engine room thinking we’re stuck on some reef.
It is very satisfying for us to see that the institutions are starting to include intersex people in the LGBTI family and beginning to address the intersex rights. Malta spearheaded the development with their legislation. And both FRA and Council of Europe are doing their parts. This is an area we need to consolidate.
There is a call to us to engage, and we do: we work the system. But others work the system too.
The ‘Mum, Dad & Kids’ citizen initiative was brought up. We are quite disturbed that the initiative was at all accepted for process and that the campaign to collect one million signatures is underway. The Commission stated that should the citizen initiative succeed in collecting all the signatures, it will take a stand based on the core values of the EU. We feel certain this will be the right stand and that the situation will be addressed, but they are out there campaigning now. If it is an obviously anti human rights cause why wait? Because along the way someone is going to be hurt, including our kids, and that is so not ok.
There were many calls for civil society to engage. Being part of that we of course appreciate the interest, and certainly we are the ones concerned. We are the experts.
Often we were called upon to call on governments. Well fine, we’ll start calling.
A number of initiatives and bodies exist because of funding from a few member states. But this is important. We must invest on a regional level and we call on all member states to join in, to take responsibility.
Furthermore, we call on the states to make those national action plans.
We are concerned that things are moving slowly. The horizontal directive, which would provide protection against discrimination outside the labour market for those groups not yet protected, has been lying around for years. We call on all states to call on the Commission and join forces to institute this basic tool, which could operationalize our beloved fundamental rights. As Danish civil society bodies – we would heartily welcome this as it could solve our problem with subpar non-discrimination legislation.
We love the front-runners. But the idea with a front-runner is that someone follows. We call on the states to follow the good examples e.g. that of Malta to outlaw gender conforming surgery on small children – unable to consent as they are – and outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sex characteristics. Political leadership is needed, and if you provide it, you can make an important difference.
And finally, we the civil society do want to call, do want to engage, do want to provide expertise – it is valuable for us, it is valuable for society. Do acknowledge that and do provide funding. Together – and only together – we can improve the policies, the instruments and the implementations. Let’s do that.