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14 May, 2013

The EU Stands Firm on Fundamental Rights

The EU and Ukrainian citizens have a shared interest in removing barriers in the field of free movement and trade, but the EU is not just a single market for capital, goods and services - it is a community of values too

The European Parliament has sent a strong political signal to Ukraine: the protection of fundamental rights and the EU's core values are a precondition for deepening relationships with third countries. Europe's values should not only be written down in legislation and treaties but should also be put in practice. The proposed homophobic draft legislation currently on the table in the Ukrainian Parliament contributes to a climate of hate and violence and puts pressure on further co-operation.

As a liberal I have endorsed the European perspective for Ukraine from the start, and I fully support further cooperation. The EU and Ukrainian citizens have a shared interest in removing barriers in the field of free movement and trade. But European values are not negotiable. The EU is not just a single market for capital, goods and services; it is a community of values too.

Diversity is of paramount importance and fundamental to a stable and secure society. Not surprisingly the most prosperous countries in the world are the countries with the most liberal attitude with respect to individual freedoms, including LGBT-rights. France recently adopted legislation that legalizes gay-marriage and the United Kingdom is considering the same. This brings the total number of EU Member States to 7 and the number of Council of Europe countries to 9. Many more EU countries have same sex civil unions. Also the United States seems to be following by good example. Fundamental rights are universal and indivisible, there is no such thing as 'fundamental rights à la carte'.

READ ALSO: Homosexuality: Neither Disease, nor Crime, nor Amorality

In March, Ukraine rejected all the LGBT-related recommendations at the UN Human Rights Council Session. The draft legislation on the prohibition of “propaganda of homosexuality” marks this deterioration of the situation of fundamental rights. The so-called protection of 'traditional values' is just a pretext for discrimination, hate and violence. Society has abandoned many traditional values in the course of time; that was not a sign of moral decline, but of advancing civilisation. Institutionalized homophobia fosters fear and violence not only against LGBT-people, but also against their neighbours, teachers, parents, brothers and sisters, children, friends and colleagues.

The EU is not forcing the Ukraine to implement 'progressive' alien values: fundamental rights are not only key to the European Union, but also to the Council of Europe, of which the Ukraine is a member since the mid-nineties. This is the moment for Ukraine to get back on the right track, starting by the protection of fundamental rights, minorities and implementing legal and electoral reforms to get its house in order.

For years Ukraine used to be the front-runner of the countries that form part of the EU Neighbourhood Policy, but is nowadays outdriven by Moldova and Georgia. The EU invites Ukraine to join the forefront again and shows itself as an open, modern and tolerant country. With other words: a fully-fledged member of the European family.

Sophie in 't Veld is a Dutch Member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament and vice-Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

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