Estonia has joined twelve other European Union member states from across the bloc in issuing a statement condemning recent legal amendments passed by the parliament of Hungary and put forward by the prime minister of that country, Viktor Orban, who has been in office over a decade, and his party, Fidesz, which would bar the teaching of LGBT+, gender and related matters in schools in Hungary.
The legislation, which passed last week virtually unopposed, contradicts fundamental EU rights as set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the statement says.
The statement was followed Wednesday by a pledge from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to take action on the matter.
The 13 states conclude with calling on the European Commission, as the observer of compliance with EU law, to use all the means at its disposal to ensure that compliance is fully met. Hungary is an EU state.
The statement, issued Tuesday, says that: "Stigmatizing LGBTIQ persons constitute [sic] a clear breach of their fundamental right to dignity, as provided for in the EU charter and international law."
Here's the statement the ministers of and maybe (to be confirmed) will later today make on what they call 'a flagrant form of discrimination' of LGBTIQ persons and the 'violation of the right of freedom of expression' in . pic.twitter.com/snmK0xMDqc— Kmlvrmln (@kmlvrmln) June 22, 2021
Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden are the co-signatories to the statement, along with Estonia, while Latvia may join the group also.
As majority Finno-Ugric nations, Estonia and Hungary have comparatively close relations at the cultural level, and Hungary was represented at last week's VIII World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples held in Tartu and remotely online.
The legislation would engender serious restrictions on the rights and freedom of expression of sexual minorities, to wit LGBT+ people, the statement says.
"We express our grave concern about the adoption by the Hungarian Parliament of amendments which discriminate against LGBTIQ persons and violate the right to freedom of expression under the pretext of protecting children," the statement says.
"It represents a flagrant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and hence deserves to be condemned. Inclusion, human dignity and equality are core values of our EU, and we cannot compromise on these principles."
A book for children was published in Hungary last year, entitled, "Wonderland is for Everyone", which reportedly teaches the acceptance of minorities and the fight against social exclusion.
Some politicians including those from Fidesz hit out at the book and its use in schools, referring to it as "homopropaganda" and calling for its banning in schools.
Viktor Orban faces a general election in Hungary next year, and faces a potential challenge from a bloc of opposition parties, after over 10 years in power – he was also prime minister in the late 1990s-early 2000s.
The signatory states not that the slew of legislation, concerning five different acts of parliament, bar the provision of information on same-sex attraction, gender identity and gender reassignment, while spokespersons for LGBT+ people in Hungary call the measures repressive, comparing them to a similar law passed in Russia in 2013.
While Orban's government says the measures are being taken to protect children and to combat pedohpilia, critics say that the legislation curbs children's rights, as well as those of LGBT+ groups and of freedom of expression in general.
The amendments passed on June 15 by 157 votes in favor to one against, with opposition parties, save for the far-right Jobbik party, boycotted the vote.
The amendments to domestic Hungarian legislation also run counter to EU-level stances on the issue, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
The 13-nation statement was made at a EU General Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg Tuesday, which discussed, among other things, the Article 7 procedure.
Article 7 of the EU treaty allows for dealing with member states – Poland has also been in the spotlight in recent years on the same and related issues to those occurring in Hungary – believed to be diverging from core and fundamental EU values.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged Wednesday to take action at union-level on the issue, calling the Orban government's actions: "Shameful".
Press freedoms and an independent judiciary in Orban's Hungary are also areas of concern, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.
What penalties may be incurred on those who transgress the legislation has not yet been reported.
The statement echoes one Estonia signed up to last spring which called for the protection of democracy and the rule of law and was seen at the time as an indirect criticism of the developments in Hungary.
This article was updated to include Ursula von der Leyen's statements.
Editor: Andrew Whyte