EuroPride Conference 2016: LGBTI rights in Europe, political answers to an activist analysis

 

The conference was organized by the PES and Rainbow Rose in collaboration with PVdA Roze Network in Amsterdam on 5th of August.

We were pleased to welcome  participants from more than 20 EU and non-EU countries. Aurélien Mazuy, Rainbow Rose President,  and Sander Meinema , PvdA Roze Netwerk Chairman welcomed the participants and thanked everyone for the presence and for the help. They referred to some concrete steps we have to take: the anti-discrimination directive outside of work needs to be approved as soon as possible,situation in Turkey and Tunisia will be under close-monitoring, within our family the situation with the Slovak party is still problematic and a PES LGBTI roadmap could help, discrimination protection should be constitutionally guaranteed, civil society and Education should be prioritized in future work. “The European Union is witnessing significant differences at a national level regarding LGBTI rights in Europe. The lack of rights and visibility of the LGBTI community in some of member states, and also outside the EU, represents an International and European challenge which requires a comprehensive and united approach.”, says Aurélien. 

On the first panel “An overview of the European situation, priorities and demands on LGBTI rights” wich was moderated by Björn Van Roozendaal (ILGA-Europe Programs Director), all speakers: Kristine Garina, President of the European Pride Organizers Association) J. Vreer Verkerke, Steering Committee of Transgender Europe,  Vilma Vaitiekukunaite, LGTBI activist and member of LSDP, Lithuania, and Bartol Simunic, LGBTI activist and member of SDP, Croatia, agreed on the growing complexity making our fight for equality more difficult. But the case of Malta can show how we can move forwards successfully – even in ”hostile environment” at first glance. Malta has made the biggest progress in LGBTI rights in the last years and one of the reasons behinds is political leadership, which was personally illustrated by Hon. Minister Helena Dalli. Important as well in this fight are intersectionality, strong networks and the work with the civil society.

On the second panel “Political actions from yesterday, today and tomorrow to guarantee LGBTI quality rights to European citizens” which was moderated by Kevin Peel, Committee of the Regions, and had the following speakers: Hon. Minister Helena Dalli, Maltese Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, Sedef Cakmak, Istanbul CHP Councilor and Turkish LGTBI activist, Julie Ward, S&D, Labour UK MEP, and Astrid Oosenburg, PvdA MP. Julie Ward spoke about her work in the European Parliament and the S&D LGBTI paper and Sedef Cakmak reported about the situation in Turkey which is moving backwards: it is impossible to get in touch with the government, freedom of assembly is threatened and fear very present. Nevertheless the number of LGBTI organizations has grown and Sedef Cakmak was thankful to the international help. Hon. Minister Helena Dalli clarified her personal conviction that everyone as a person has the right to be happy, to move on and to reach her/his goals and that every government should guarantee this. She stressed that sometimes words are nice but actions and strategies are needed. Astrid Oosenburg pointed out that being openly out and visible is very important and will change the view and mind of people. During her closing speech Selina Dogan (CHP MP, Turkey) came back in details to the situation in Turkey. It is moving away from the EU and the status of emergency makes the circumstances more complicated. She highlighted that it is essential to touch the people’s heart for moving forwards and that a mental revolution is needed in Turkey. She also committed personally to her support towards the LGBTI community in Turkey.

As we have seen it is still important to fight for LGBTI rights in Europe and within this fight we can learn from each other. Exchanges of experiences, ideas and practices are helpful within this fight and broaden everyone’s horizon. “United in diversity” – this motto of the European Union could also have been the motto of our conference.