PinkNews.co.uk Exclusive

Bulgaria and Romania’s accession into the European Union has been hailed as a good way of ensuring they come into line with the rest of Europe’s standards, members of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights (IGLR) said today.

The Eastern European countries are believed to have fulfilled the political body’s requirements to gain entry in January 2007, on the basis that immigration is controlled and that Sofia and Bucharest curb problems of organised crime.

Michael Cashman, president of the IGLR, was on the joint parliamentary committees which analysed Romania and Bucharest’s suitability, and claims the real test is to ensure the new member states uphold their promises.

He called the decision a positive move, the former EastEnder told PinkNews.co.uk: “We end up having the ability to monitor and make them accountable to common rules and standards.

“We have to make certain we do not end up with a Polish situation where they don’t implement what they have signed up to.”

Poland has come under criticism for violence at the recent Warsaw gay pride marches and closing gay bars and organisations as well as homophobic statements from government ministers.

Comparably, Romania and Bulgaria are more hospitable to the gay community, both specifically include sexual orientation in non-discrimination laws, Mr Cashman said they can now be watched closely to ensure they protect all their citizens, and can be threatened with expulsion if they don’t.

Members of the EU are expected to “facilitate” gay and lesbian couples, meaning they can live anywhere in the European Union and have their rights legally protected, even in countries where there are no same sex partner laws.

Additionally, the EU recently passed a resolution vowing to clamp down on homophobia in Europe.

The IGLR will be seeking to ensure Bulgaria and Romania follow the rules, especially amid recent violence at the Bucharest Gay Pride and traditional social attitudes in Sofia.

Green Party MEP and IGLR member, Jean Lambert told PinkNews.co.uk that the countries must be made to implement all rules of the EU, “”The job now is to ensure they fully implement the rules and regulations of the EU, particularly those on anti-discrimination and anti-corruption. We will now be watching their actions closely.”

The concerns come after recent events in areas of both countries suggesting a hostile attitude towards gay rights.

This year’s gay pride in the Romanian capital of Bucharest saw around 500 participants targeted by eggs and anti gay slogans as well as a counter march by the Romanian Christian group Noua Dreapta, promoting “family values.”

Protesters chanted slogans such as “Romania does not need you,” and called the campaigners “an outrage to morality and to the family.”

Recently in Bulgaria homophobic abuse was aimed at a referee who a football team’s manager believed had contributed to his side’s defeat.

Despite currently not allowing same sex marriage, Romania does include sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination legislation and allows those who have undergone gender reassignment to change their identity.

However, being one of the last European countries to decriminalise homosexuality in 1996, a lot of stigma still remains.

The gay community in Bulgaria faces a similar situation with no same sex union laws, but they do have protection from discrimination. However gay group Queer Bulgaria claim it is still seen as personally degrading to be a homosexual in the country.

The new members take the EU states up to 27, prompting European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to suggest a reform of the organisation to fit in more countries as Turkey, Croatia, who are tipped to be next to join.