Earlier this month the European Union issued a declaration requiring states that are seeking to join the Union to respect the rights of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens. This declaration is an important step forward in increasing the acceptance of LGBT individuals in Europe and removing legal discrimination from the region. There are currently several states that are officially candidates for admission, including Iceland, Turkey, and Serbia. These states will now be required to remove all legal discrimination based on sexual orientation from their state frameworks in order to join the EU.
In their declaration, the EU Commission states that respect for LGBT rights was an “integral part of the criteria for admission.” This means that each candidate state will now be thoroughly assessed on their actions towards their LGBT citizens before they can enter the Union. Only those states that allow no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression will continue to be considered for entrance into the Union. Thus “accession of a country will not be possible if certain LGBT rights are not put into law and into practice.”
Since many countries want to join the EU for strong economic and political reasons, this declaration will hopefully push forward progress on LGBT acceptance around Europe. Several countries that wish to be considered for EU candidacy but allow extensive LGBT discrimination in their borders, such as Armenia, will be forced to change their legal systems and cultures of discrimination to respect the rights of their minorities. The EU commission has also pledged to “report annually on the progress made by [candidate] countries with regard to the situation of the LGBT community.” Therefore, many states will be required to reevaluate how they treat their LGBT citizens. Unless such states start respecting LGBT rights, their dreams to gain membership in the prestigious European Union will not become a reality.