Euro MPs have called on the Bulgarian goverment to extend civil partnerships to gay and lesbian couples.

Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. Its parliament is considering a new draft of the Family Code which introduces civil partnerships into Bulgarian law, but only between a man and a woman.

Politicians have refused to countenance extending protections to gay and lesbian couples.

This week the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights sent a letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria Sergei Stanishev and Members of the National Assembly expressing concern.

“Unions between opposite-sex and same-sex couples are based on the same ground. It is a commitment and a declaration of love,” wrote MEPs Michael Cashman, Lissy Gräner, Raúl Romeva and Sophie In ‘t Veld.

“It constitutes a direct discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation if opposite-sex couples can legally register a partnership, but same-sex couples can not.

“Discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is prohibited in various legal documents of the European Union.”

There are varying levels of legal protection for same-sex couples in place across the EU.

Family law remains a matter for the member states. At present some nations, such as Spain and Belgium allow gay marriages.

The UK has same-sex partnerships, a system that will be introduced in the Republic of Ireland.

Other nations such as France have registration systems that give gay and lesbian couples some rights.

The French pacte civil de solidarité (PACS) is fully recognised in Britain, but France does not recognise UK partnerships.

Any EU-wide agreement on the issue of same-sex recognition would require a consensus among the 27 member states.

Vladimir Spidla, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, said in an interview last month:

“Within European legislation we have gone as far as we can go.

“If a state accepts the equality of these relationships then that state cannot discriminate.

“And there are already some infringement procedures against some states on this matter.

“However, whether the state accepts these unions or not is a basic national competence. And we don’t interfere with that.

“I think that we found the best possible balance in the proposal of the directive.

“These are national competences over things that are very sensitive and which are not the subject of European legislation so we preserve them in that way and I think that at this moment there is the best possible balance.”