As he arrived at an EU summit dominated by growing controversy over the issue, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban defended a new law in his country prohibiting LGBT content in schools.
“This is not an anti-homosexuality or sexual interference statement. It has nothing to do with homosexuals “Orban stated. “It’s about the rights of the children and the parents,” he said, adding that he would not withdraw the legislation despite widespread public condemnation from most of his EU counterparts.
Leaders from 17 EU countries signed a letter on Thursday that, while not directly mentioning Hungary, condemned “threats to fundamental rights, particularly the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
It followed a more explicit joint declaration earlier this week by the same countries, including heavyweights Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, in which they expressed “grave concerns” about the Hungarian law. The issue was thrust to the forefront of EU politics this week when UEFA, Europe’s football governing body, rejected Munich’s plan to light up its stadium in rainbow colors for a match between Germany and Hungary on Wednesday.
According to an EU official, the burgeoning debate over Hungary’s law has become “quite important” and will most likely be discussed during a working dinner.
Following Orban down the red carpet into the summit chamber, some EU leaders were openly critical of the legislation. “With the measures they are taking, the Hungarian authorities are transgressing a fundamental value of the European Union,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said.
“We will be articulating our position on that very strongly this evening.”
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel stated that he would inform Orban that “his comments and the laws he has enacted are unacceptable.”
French President Emmanuel Macron was more circumspect, saying he was “always wary” of requiring another EU country to withdraw legislation.
“But I will defend our values, and the law… does not appear to me to be in line with our values,” he said, adding that he hoped “dialogue” with Orban would result in the law being changed. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who had previously called the Hungarian law “wrong,” made no mention of it as she arrived and gave a rundown of the summit’s “full agenda.”
On Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the legislation “clearly discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation,” and that her executive would challenge its legality.
Orban, on the other hand, dismissed the onslaught, accusing EU leaders of failing to read the law’s text. If the question was raised, he said, “it’s about how a child learns about sexuality, which is in any case a difficult and complicated question, and decisions about that are entirely the responsibility of parents.”
Another point of contention at the summit was Germany and France’s surprise push to restart dialogue with Russia by considering holding a summit with President Vladimir Putin. Macron claimed that the EU would be “demanding” in any talks with Putin because “we will not give up any of our values.” Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins was less convinced, saying, “I see difficulties in it.”