LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

EU foreign policy

What do we mean when we talk about EU foreign policy?

While each member state of the EU has its own foreign policy priorities, the EU itself also speaks with one voice in discussions with countries outside the Union and at multilateral summits. The principles on which this collective voice is based are defined in the Treaty of Lisbon. This entered into force in 2009, and are those principles include ‘democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.’  

The Lisbon Treaty also created the EU’s diplomatic service in 2011- the European External Action Service (EEAS). The EEAS functions as a kind of “EU foreign ministry”,  and aims to bring together the expertise of EU and national diplomatic services. The EEAS is led by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is also vice president of the European Commission. This position is currently held by Federica Mogherini from Italy.

How are LGBTI rights addressed in the EU’s foreign policy?

As mentioned earlier, the EU is guided by the principles of human rights and democracy, both on the international scene and in bilateral relations with foreign countries. This commitment was set out in 2012 when the EU adopted a comprehensive human rights package including a Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy and an Action Plan. An EU Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights was also appointed.

For the first time, the Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy commits the EU to placing “human rights at the center of its foreign relations, including with its strategic partners” and to promoting “human rights in all areas of its external action without exception”. The EU also pledged to raise human rights “vigorously in all appropriate forms of dialogue, including at the highest level” and to make “use of the full range of instruments at its disposal, including sanctions or condemnation” when faced with violations of human rights.

The Action Plan lists specific actions the EU is going to take to implement the commitments in the Strategic Framework. For example, the EU has pledged to adopt LGBTI Guidelines for supporting LGBTI persons’ human rights. These guidelines were adopted in June 2013. The guidelines are much broader in scope than the previous LGBT toolkit, and carry greater political weight as they are endorsed by all 27 EU member states. They give a comprehensive overview of possible actions in response to the human rights violations of LGBTI people in foreign  countries and, for the first time, refer explicitly to intersex people.

How is ILGA-Europe working to advance LGBTI human rights in EU’s foreign policy and actions?

ILGA-Europe played a crucial role in ensuring that LGBTI Guidelines were robust, practical and include a reference to intersex people. ILGA-Europe gives input to EEAS consultations and contributes to the EU’s human rights dialogue with European countries who are not Union members. We monitor developments at national and EU level, bring activists from other European countries to Brussels to raise the human rights concerns directly with EU officials. ILGA-Europe has also  rained EEAS and EU delegations staff on LGBTI issues. As part of the Human Rights and Democracy Network, we also organise joint advocacy actions and campaigns targeting EU institutions dealing with foreign policy.

For more information, contact Björn van Roozendaal, Programmes Director