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GLBT Rights Europe D66 European Parliament

Romania's National Interest - in the Hands of the Senate

   Tue 13/03/2001

The Romanian Senate has to decide if homosexuality will remain a crime in Romania. Three members of the European Parliament warn the Senate that keeping article 200 will block Romania's European aspirations.

In the coming weeks the Romanian Senate will have the chance to vote either for or against the national interest of Romania. Members of the European Parliament Lousewies van der Laan, Joke Swiebel and Michael Cashman (1) discuss this simple choice. Voting against the abolition of Romania's Penal Code article 200 will block Romania´s future entry into Europe.

Romania’s accession to the European Union is a historical step that is important for all nations involved. Not only will Romania be a valuable addition to the European family, but EU membership will mark the beginning of a new era for Romania. Romania has made many important changes with enlargement in mind, but there is one fundamental step that needs to take place before the European Union can count Romania among its members: the abolition of the anti homosexual legislation.

The European Union is not only a community of nations, but of citizens. All these citizens are guaranteed fundamental human rights. The Treaty on the European Union lays out the legal basis of equality: "The European Union can take appropriate action in order to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation." This Article 13 is considered one of the most important in the European Treaty, because it underlines our fundamental European values. Every person in the European Union has a legal right to equal treatment. This is not the case in Romania. The anti homosexual law, article 200 of the Penal code, is contradictory to all fundamental human rights and therefore to all that Europe stands for. Not only is it contradictory to our Treaties and beliefs, it is also contradictory to the principles of equality which are so clearly stated in the Romanian constitution itself.

Upon its application for acceptance into the European Union, Romania agreed that the whole acquis communautaire (or EU legislation) needed to be adopted on the national level. Not only did this stand for the more tangible agricultural and economic regulations, but also those laws that guarantee basic human rights. Unless these laws are adapted into Romanian legislation, Romania can not become a member state of the European Union.

In August last year an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance was adopted by the Romanian Government. It forbids all forms of discrimination in social and economic life, among which that on the ground of sexual orientation. Consequently, Romania has one of the most progressive anti-discrimination provisions into force worldwide. A logical and necessary next step should be abolishing the discrimination of homosexuals in the Romanian Penal Code. Because it is our deep conviction that it is not the Governments' role to interfere with its citizens’ private life and beliefs, as long as there is no direct harm to the personal rights of fellow citizens. On the contrary, it is a civilised Governement's duty to guarantee and protect its citizens' individual choices, by promoting respect for minorities and combatting discrimination.

These are the kind of attitudes and policies that the European Union is looking for. A forward thinking Romania, whose Anti-Discrimination laws follow the same lines of the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights, which all European citizens hold so close to their hearts. Naturally, legislation is only the first step towards ending discrimination. Acceptance and open-mindedness among citizens only come when sentiments of tolerance and mutual respect are fostered within the community. But without proper legislation, and the support of the government, there is no basis for the advancement of a tolerant society: the type of society that Europe would like to welcome with open arms.

As members of the European Parliament, as citizens of the European Union, and as human beings we are making a very simple statement: being pro European means being in support of human rights and equality. Equality for all people, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, religion or race. And what bothers us after watching Romania closely for over a year, and having numerous contacts with Romanian officials and representatives of Non Governmental Organizations is that for all the hard work and positive action that Romania has taken, it all will be for naught if article 200 is not retracted. To be pro article 200 is to be anti Europe, and anti Romania. The decision is quite simple. To vote for the national interest of Romania is to vote for the accession into the European Union. The equality of homosexuals under the law is one of the fundamental keys to member status.