Ukraine ‘to lose out’ on EU travel agreement after blocking LGBT rights law
Ukraine is set to lose out on a visa-free travel agreement with the EU, after the Ukrainian Parliament blocked a law protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
The country – which is sharply divided between those who want better relations with Europe, and those who want closer ties with Russia – had applied to join the European Schengen zone earlier this year.
The Schengen zone aims to bolster free trade across Europe, with 26 countries permitting visa-free travel for citizens and abolishing the need for passports across European borders.
However, Schengen membership is conditional based on a number of factors – and the European Union has consistently maintained that Ukraine must legally ban discrimination against LGBT people before joining.
The plan for Ukraine to join suffered a setback this week, when its Parliament overwhelmingly voted to block the LGBT rights changes required.
Just 117 lawmakers voted for the changes, out of 450 in the Parliament.
It comes after the head of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, told the country’s President that Ukrainian citizens would not be granted a visa-free access deal without judiciary and human rights reforms.
Clashes between far-right groups and gay rights protesters are common in Ukraine, with the capital Kyiv’s Pride often subject to brutal attacks from homophobes.
Kyiv Pride was the scene of violence earlier this year – and two policemen were reportedly wounded in an exchange with the violent mob, who pelted marchers and police alike with stones and smoke bombs.
Kyiv’s oldest cinema was nearly burned to the ground last October – when it was set on fire during the screening of a ‘gay’ film.
Meanwhile, a video stunt went awry in Kyiv when two men attempting to hold hands in public were set upon by a group of violent goons.