EU should keep pressure on Ukraine to adopt inclusive anti-discrimination protection
The recent events in Ukraine have brought the European Union to an unprecedented situation during which Member States decided to speed-up various association measures in support of democratisation processes taking place in the country. One of these measures is the acceleration of the visa dialogue, through which visa-free travel between the EU and Ukraine should soon become a reality. This is an important development for citizens as it allows for free movement and thereby has the potential of bringing societies closer together.
During the last years the EU has initiated similar processes for other countries that are part of the Eastern Partnership. The negotiations leading to visa-free travel include various conditions that countries need to meet before realising it. Such measures range from issues like conformity to international standards, to ensuring adequate level of border and migration management and fighting organised crime. Another step that countries need to take includes anti-discrimination measures and respect and protection of human rights.
Realising anti-discrimination legislation that is inclusive of sexual orientation, amongst other grounds is one of the areas that countries need to work on during the first phase of negotiations, before moving on the second phase. At current, this criteria has not been met yet by Ukraine. With a view on speeding-up the process, we consider that there could be a risk that the process moves to the next step without this criteria been met.
ILGA-Europe expresses concerns that this is not the time to postpone the implementation of selective criteria from the visa-liberalisation action plan. Executive Director Evelyne Paradis: “The adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation is an important measure to ensure that free travel truly applies to all citizens equally. Postponing only the implementation anti-discrimination measures on ground of sexual orientation from a basket full of criteria creates the impression that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are less important than others. Realisation of this essential piece of conditionality should be ensured by introducing new safeguards into the visa liberalisation process, including clear benchmarks and a timeline. If this doesn’t happen then the EU runs the risks of undermining its key human rights principles.”
The Ukrainian government is currently in the process of introducing new anti-discrimination legislation. ILGA-Europe sees this as an important opportunity to ensure equal protection before the law for all, but are concerned that sexual orientation will not be included as ground for discrimination. “Missing the opportunity to specifically include sexual orientation in this law sends out a wrong signal, as it creates an inequality for a big group of citizens. Aspiring closer association with the European Union means that full measures around democratisation need to be realised, including the necessary assurances to protect human rights of all citizens and in particular the adoption and implementation of comprehensive anti-discrimination protection law,” said Evelyne Paradis.
During earlier talks Ukraine has said that it will take various soft-measures to promote principles of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. ILGA-Europe sees this as a positive development but warns that these measures by no means could replace anti-discrimination law that is inclusive of sexual orientation itself. ILGA-Europe expects that the European Union will not give in on its principles and at the same time avail itself to support the Ukrainian government in implementing the required criteria, as well as the complimentary measures proposed by the Ukrainian government.