West Midlands MEP Michael Cashman has said that the decision of the mayor of the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to ban the visit of a bus promoting the EU’s “For Diversity; against discrimination” campaign should give Brussels bureaucrats some insight into LGBT experiences.
The diversity roadshow has been touring Europe.
It is visiting 21 countries and was to be accompanied by a gay march in Vilnius tomorrow.
The 30-tonne vehicle is designed to inform citizens of their rights under EU and national anti-discrimination legislation as part of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All.
Vilnius city authorities said that homophobic protesters might try to disrupt the events and banned them out of concerns for public order.
Mr Cashman, president of the European parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights, commented:
“The European Commission experiences at first hand what it’s like to be gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender.
“The commission now feels the force of homophobia.
“The government of Lithuania must act and abide by the treaties … otherwise the flames of hatred which were ignited in Poland and are now spreading to Lithuania will continue crossing our continent.”
Other MEPs have criticised EU leaders for not reacting strongly enough to the Vilnius ban.
Sophie in ‘t Veld, the Dutch vice-president of the Intergroup, called upon the Commission to respond more agressively:
“The Commission does not hesitate to charge in with the cavalry to fight cartels or anti-competitive practices.
“In the European Year of Equal Opportunities the Commission must demonstrate that it enforces all European laws, not just the economic ones.
“Banning a peaceful demonstration was ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.
“Moreover, the activity was organised and funded in the context of the European Year.
“The Commission must ensure proper execution of the programmes.”
Liberal Democrat MEP for London Baroness Sarah Ludford has called on the EU Presidency to take action to stop the rash of homophobic actions:
“The mayor of Vilnius’ ostensible reason – that the cancellation was on security grounds as anti-gay protestors would violently disrupt the events – has recently been judged spurious by the European Court of Human Rights in regard to a gay parade ban in Poland.
“Since the mayor also said “we disapprove of the public display of homosexualist ideas in the city of Vilnius,” we can assume the real reason is prejudice.”
Germany currently holds the Presidency of the EU. Baroness Ludford questioned their inaction.
“Respect for human rights and non-discrimination are EU membership obligations.
“I regard it as feeble in the extreme that the sole EU official reaction so far has been a European Commission statement that ‘it highly regrets the decision to cancel the planned event.’
“There should be a reprimand if not sanctions.
“But Vilnius is actually being rewarded for its equalities mission by being the chosen site for the EU Gender Institute, which is laughable if not tragic.”
Lithuania follows in the footsteps of Russia and Poland in banning an equalities parade, despite the Strasbourg Court’s ruling that a ban is direct contravention of the freedom of assembly guarantees of the European Convention of Human Rights, to which all three countries are signatories.
Lissy Gröner, a German MEP, also questioned the wisdom of placing the new European Gender Institute in Vilnius.
“I doubt, in my capacity as rapporteur for the Gender Institute, that the Council took the right decision for Vilnius as the seat for the institute,” she said.