Homophobia in Europe
With a large majority (430 for, 105 against), the European Parliament adopted, on Thursday, a resolution to condemn homophobic laws and discrimination in Europe. For the first time since the last European elections, all five mainstream political groups co-authored the text. In the resolution, the European Parliament “strongly condemns any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity”. The Parliament adopted its official position after a debate on Tuesday, where MEPs almost unanimously asked the European Commission and National Governments to better protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The resolution particularly condemns recent laws or proposals in EU countries (Lithuania, Latvia, and Hungary) and Council of Europe Member States Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, making it a penal or criminal offence to talk positively about homosexuality in public. Michael Cashman speaking in plenary stated:
“I hope that we can all, as one house, vote in favour of denouncing homophobia. Homophobia blights and destroys lives; it destroys the lives of those who actually practice it, as well as those who experience it. Hate crimes, homophobic crimes and transphobic crimes scar our continent. The laws being enacted in Moldova, in Ukraine and in Russia are a step backwards. They are not a step forward towards understanding and celebrating diversity or people, but rather a step towards saying that, in order to have the protection and the respect of States and institutions, you must conform to a very narrow stereotype.”
The video of the speech is available to view at:
Financial Transactions Tax
On Wednesday the European Parliament voted to support a Europe-wide FTT, however Labour MEPs abstained on the final vote despite always supported a Robin Hood Tax, due to the prioritisation of own resources for the EU budget. In her explanation of votes Arlene McCarthy MEP and link person on the report stated:
“We support the principle of an FTT to tackle speculation and stabilise the economy away from short term profit chasing towards the needs of the real economy. A well designed, effective FTT could raise revenue to meet global development priorities, climate change commitments and help fund domestic economic priorities such as youth unemployment. We remain committed to the campaign for an FTT, for a fair taxation policy on the financial services industry, which enjoys a VAT exemption in the UK of circa 18 billion per annum. But prioritising own resources for the EU budget is very far removed from the original and laudable aims and ambitions of the Robin Hood Tax campaigners. The EU does not have the competences or legal basis either to raise financial taxes or allocate their resources to the EU budget. For this reason we are abstaining on the Podimata report, but will continue to engage constructively on the EU FTT debate unlike the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government.”
Other Plenary News
Yevgenia Tymoshenko, the daughter of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko who has been jailed for seven years on charges of abuse of power, was in Strasbourg on Tuesday for a debate on Ukraine and to meet EP president Martin Schulz. In the debate MEPs said that Ukraine should stand by the principles of the rule of law and democracy if it wants to join the EU at some point, however, views differed on whether it was a good idea for leading EU politicians to boycott the Euro 2012 football games in Ukraine over this.
The human rights situation in Azerbaijan was discussed in plenary on Thursday, ahead of the Eurovision song contest final to be held in Baku on Saturday. All actions aimed at suppressing the freedom of expression and assembly in Azerbaijan should stop immediately, says a resolution adopted by the European Parliament on Thursday. Azerbaijan’s hosting of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in its capital Baku on 26 May should be an opportunity for it to show its commitment to democracy and human rights.
Gender Pay Gap
In a vote on Thursday, the Parliament urged the European Commission to improve existing EU legislation to close the gender pay gap, including stricter sanctions on employers. MEPs called on the Commission to propose new measures to reduce inequality in pay between the sexes through all relevant EU policies and national programmes. They also ask national governments to step up cooperation and develop new ideas to tackle the gender pay gap. The gap is widest in Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia and narrowest in Belgium, Italy, Malta and Slovenia (Eurostat figures).
For more information, please visit: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/content/20120521STO45449/html/10-things-we-learnt-in-the-May-Strasbourg-plenary