Hungary-Germany. The EU wraps itself over the rainbow, Orban’s goal

Alexander Hassenstein via Getty Images

MUNICH, GERMANY – JULY 11: A general view outside of the soccer stadium Allianz Arena which is illuminated in rainbow colours for Christopher Street Day (CSD) on July 11, 2020 in Munich, Germany. Christopher Street Day is an annual European LGBT celebration and demonstration held in various cities across Europe for the rights of LGBT people and against discrimination and exclusion. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

The European Union is an “LGBTIQ zone of freedom”, as established by the European Parliament in a resolution passed by a large majority last March. Yet over the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, intersex and queer people, there is more need than ever for political battles, as demonstrated by the case of the new Hungarian law banning the “promotion of homosexuality to minors” . In these weeks in which European football is the absolute protagonist, the theme of the fight against discrimination bursts into the field, with all its corollary of media repercussions and political short circuits.

We are also seeing it in these hours – while in Italy the case of the letter delivered by the Vatican to the Farnesina against the Zan bill explodes – with the rainbow lights affair at the Allianz Arena in Munich. The mayor of the city, Dieter Reiter, had asked UEFA to install rainbow lights in the stadium during the match that will be played tomorrow between Germany and Hungary in protest against the anti-Lgbtiq law recently approved by the Hungarian Parliament. The Union of European football federations thought about it for a while but then said no, arguing that it was “a decision born in a political context”. “Thank God, the leaders of European football have shown common sense by not participating in what would have been a political provocation against us,” Viktor Orbán’s government cheered.

The highest body of European football has proposed other dates to support the LGBTIQ cause. Such as June 28, or a day between July 3 and 9, but dates on which no races are scheduled in Munich.

The reactions of the political world were immediate: “the rainbow flag represents how we want to live, in mutual respect and without discrimination,” said the spokesman for the German government, Steffen Seibert. For the president of the Bavarian conservative party CSU and governor of Bavaria, Markus Söder, “it would have been a sign of tolerance and freedom”. “Dear Uefa, you are worse than I thought. Shame on you! ”, Wrote the general secretary SPD Lars Klingbeil. The greens of chancellery candidate Annalena Baerbock invited to display rainbow flags.

“I regret this decision, I think it would have been a very strong symbol,” said Clément Beaune, Secretary of State for European Affairs for the French government; “We are beyond a political message, it is a message of profound values”. “The rainbow is not offensive, if someone does not like it it is more his problem than that of those who want to expose it,” said the vice president of the European Commission, Vera Jourova, commenting on the tug-of-war between the city of Monaco and Hungary. “We believe in a Europe that welcomes diversity, not hides it,” added the EU executive.

The point is that Hungary once again proves itself to be the European Union’s nerve when it comes to democratic rights and principles. Together with Warsaw, Budapest has strung together a series of violations of the rule of law that embarrass Brussels and other European capitals. Today the General Affairs Council returned to the issue with a refresher hearing on open proceedings against Poland and Hungary under Article 7. “The last hearing for Poland was held in 2018 and for Hungary in 2019 and from the Commission’s point of view, the situation is not going in the right direction ”, explained Commission Vice President Jourova, who coordinates policies on values ​​and transparency. “We consider the principle of the rule of law to be the foundation of European democracy and there is still a lot at stake,” he added. “We must continue this procedure because we are seeing systemic problems both in Hungary and in Poland”.

In the end, a declaration comes out – signed by 13 countries, including Italy – which expresses “deep concern for the adoption by the Hungarian Parliament of amendments that discriminate against LGBTIQ people and violate the right to freedom of expression under the pretext of protecting children ”. “Beyond the discussions underway at the General Affairs Council – write the 13 countries – we urge the European Commission as guardian of the treaties to use all the tools at its disposal to ensure full compliance with EU law, also by referring the matter to the Court of Justice. We are committed to protecting the rights of all EU citizens ”. The initiative, which started in Belgium, was joined by the governments of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Latvia.

This morning, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, had anticipated the initiative. “I hope that the EU Commission goes to the bottom”, given that the law approved by Hungary does not correspond “to any European value. Young people have the right to live as they wish. We are not in the Middle Ages ”.

However, Orbán’s Hungary does not see it that way and is proud of the new law – approved with an overwhelming majority despite street protests – to “protect minors from gay propaganda”. The package of regulations, presented by the ruling party Fidesz as an attempt to defend minors from pedophilia, includes provisions that prohibit the representation and discussion of sexual orientations other than heterosexual and information on sex reassignment in school curricula and in the targeted media. to minors under the age of 18. All things that young Hungarians, in contrast to a large part of the world, should not know.

GERGELY BESENYEI via Getty Images

A participant holds a placard showing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban holding a scarf in rainbow colours, in front of the parliament building in Budapest on June 14, 2021, during a demonstration against the Hungarian government’s draft bill seeking to ban the “promotion” of homosexuality and sex changes

For the Hungarian government, immediately opposed to the rainbow lights, UEFA’s decision is a star to pin on the chest. Zoltán Kovács, spokesman for the Budapest executive, accused the German left of wanting to campaign against Hungary. “They are trying to prove that our country is extremist and not European,” he said in an interview with the newspaper Magyar Nemzet. “No one ever documents our laws, their content doesn’t matter. In Germany, the anti-pedophilia law has not been read. The German left forces are clearly using it in a campaign against Hungary, ”continued Kovács. “An adult, anyone over 18, can live in Hungary as he wants.” His statements join those of Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, according to whom “it is dangerous to mix sport and politics … if anyone knows for sure it is the Germans”. The law passed by Budapest is “in the interest of child protection” and protests from Western Europe should not take place “at a sporting event that has nothing to do with national legislation”. And again: “It is not contemplated that the bureaucrats in Brussels or European liberal politicians dictate to us whether or not we can defend our children,” added the head of Hungarian diplomacy.

What is certain is that the rainbow denied to the Allianz Arena has turned the spotlight on the short circuit of neutrality, with UEFA as the main defendant. Not surprisingly, the tones are justified. “Uefa – reads a note – understands that the intention is to send a message to promote diversity and inclusion, a cause that Uefa has supported for many years, having joined forces with European clubs, national teams and their players, launching campaigns and numerous activities throughout Europe to underline how football should be open to all … ”. [Segue un lungo elenco di campagne anti-discriminazione, per poi arrivare al “tuttavia”] “However, Uefa, through its statutes, is a politically and religiously neutral organization. Given the political context of this specific request – a message that aims at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament – UEFA must decline this request “.

Closing the investigation against Germany goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer for the rainbow headband worn on the pitch was much easier. “The armband was evaluated as a symbol of the team for diversity and therefore for a ‘good cause'”, explained the German Football Association, communicating the Uefa decision. As if to say: the protection of the rights of LGBTIQ people is a good cause, as long as it does not create too many problems.

19 June 2021, Bavaria, Munich: Football: European Championship, Portugal - Germany, preliminary round,...

picture alliance via Getty Images

19 June 2021, Bavaria, Munich: Football: European Championship, Portugal – Germany, preliminary round, Group F, 2nd matchday, at the EM Arena in Munich. Germany’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer claps after the match. Photo: Christian Charisius/dpa (Photo by Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images)

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