BRUSSELS, July 15 (Reuters) – The European Commission has launched legal action against Hungary over measures it said discriminated against LGBT people, escalating a value battle with Prime Minister Viktor Orban that could hold EU funds for Budapest.
The European Union executive also opened a case against Poland on Thursday after some of the country’s regions and municipalities declared themselves “free zones with LGBT ideology”.
The violation actions are the latest salvation in a clash of cultures between Brussels and some of the youngest EU members in Eastern Europe over a range of crucial issues, including the rule of law and press freedoms.
“Equality and respect for dignity and human rights are core values of the EU … The Commission will use all available instruments to uphold these values,” he said.
The action against Hungary was linked to a new law banning schools from using materials deemed to promote homosexuality. Rights groups have rallied against legislation which Commission head Ursula von der Leyen has called a “disgrace”. Read more
There has been no immediate reaction from Orban who has said the LGBT issue is a matter of national sovereignty.
Faced with a difficult choice next year, he has become increasingly radical in social policy to defend what he says are traditional Christian values from Western liberalism.
Violations are the beginning of legal proceedings aimed at forcing member states to comply with EU law. Hungary and Poland have two months to respond, failing which the Commission can refer them to the EU Court of Justice.
Many of Orban’s critics in the EU want the Commission to put maximum pressure on Budapest to repeal the law by making a connection to the disbursement of billions of euros of EU post-pandemic stimulus funds.
The commission missed its deadline this week to sign Hungary’s recovery plan to allow the money to start flowing.
Orban chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said Thursday that debates over the new law should have no implication for Hungary’s recovery funds.
The European Commission said it acted against Poland over LGBT-free areas because it was concerned they might violate EU law regarding non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
He added that he had not received enough information about the areas from Warsaw.
The Polish government denies having laws that discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. Read more
The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) says gay rights are a threat to the traditional lifestyle in one of Europe’s most Catholic countries.
Additional reports by Anita Komuves and Krisztina Than in Budapest; Edited by Andrew Heavens
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