LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Eastern Partnership

What is the Eastern Partnership?

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a joint initiative between the European Union (EU), EU countries and the eastern European partner countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The initiative is the East European dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) – as the ENP also includes EU’s neighbours in North Africa and the Middle East. The EaP is underpinned by the shared commitment of the EU, EU countries, and the EaP countries to international law,democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

How are human rights of LGBTI people addressed in the Eastern Partnership?

The EU supports political and socioeconomic reforms as well as engagement with civil society in the Eastern Partnership countries. If partner countries introduce more reforms then they will receive more benefits from the EU in form of more funds and increased cooperation.

Human rights and fundamental freedoms are an integral part of all key EaP documents, with specific priorities identified for each of the countries. The EU monitors EaP progress on these essential human rights priorities and provides conclusions and recommendations in annual reports.

However, bilateral and multilateral talks between the EU and the EaP countries are primarily focused on security and economic cooperation. The incentives for human rights reform in the EaP countries (in particular when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity) are not as strong as they are for countries being considered for EU membership, for example under the Enlargement policy [link to section].

The EU’s promise of visa-free travel is one potentially attractive way of advancing of non-discrimination. Existing visa liberalisation action plans include, among other conditions, introduction of comprehensive anti-discrimination laws. This benchmark has proven to be a concrete gateway for improving legal protections for LGBTI people, and has been a very useful advocacy tool for ILGA-Europe and its member organisations.

While recent polarised relationships and security developments in the EaP region mean the future of the partnership is unclear, ILGA-Europe and its member organisations will continue exploring the ways in which the human rights of LGBTI people could be addressed using this mechanism.

How does ILGA-Europe work to advance human rights of LGBTI people in the Eastern Partnership?

ILGA-Europe works with member and partner organisations in all countries within the Eastern Partnership: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

ILGA-Europe advocate that continuous and consistent attention must be paid to the human rights of LGBTI people in EU bilateral talks with the EaP countries. This means ensuring that LGBTI-specific human rights concerns and improvements are reflected in the EU’s annual progress reports. We also provide LGBTI organisations with the information, knowledge, skills, and support they need to make certain that the human rights of LGBTI people in their countries are advanced within EaP processes.

In practice, ILGA-Europe...

  • give input to the EU civil society consultation on the EaP annual progress reports;
  • build the capacities of national organisations to advocate, both nationally and at the EU level;
  • participate in the annual Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, contributing to the discussion on democracy, human rights, and good governance.