By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
On the 22nd of June – at the eve of the European championship football match between Hungary and Germany in Munich – a hysterical wave of protest broke out in Germany and in the European Union against Hungary (which is member state of the EU since May 2004.) The protest was unleashed when the mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter (SPD), supported by CSU Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder, decided to illuminate the Munich Soccer Stadium with rainbow colors for the European championship match, in order to send a strong “signal of protest” against the recent education law of the Hungarian government. The law had been passed Mid-June by the Hungarian parliament under the title: “Taking more severe action against pedophile offenders and amending certain Acts for the protection of children.” The law prohibits and limits information for minors under 18 in respect to homosexuality and transsexuality, as well forbids any publicity made for LGTB for minors under the age of 18. The UEFA (Union of the European Football Association) in the last minute prevented this “symbolic” rainbow illumination with the argument that Sports (Soccer) is not supposed to openly meddle into politics.
What the Hungarian Law is all about
A sober look at the relevant parts of the Hungarian law makes clear that the law includes several amendments for the protection of children, such as for example Section 6/A, which states, that the state shall protect the right of children to a self- identity corresponding to their sex at birth: For ensuring the fulfilment of the objectives set out in this Act and the implementation of the rights of the child, it is forbidden to make accessible to persons who have not attained the age of eighteen years, content that is pornographic or that depicts sexuality in a gratuitous manner or propagates or portrays divergence from self – identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality.
With it goes another amendment concerning certain restrictions on economic advertising activities: It shall be forbidden to make accessible to persons who have not attained the age of eighteen years advertisement that depicts sexuality in a gratuitous manner or that propagates or portray divergence from self – identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality.
Under Section 9 (6) the law underlines: Programs shall be classified into category V if they are capable of exerting negative influence on the physical, mental or moral development of minors, in particular as a result of having as their central element violence, propagation or portrayal of divergence from self -identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality or direct, naturalistic or gratuitous depiction of sexuality .The fundamental programs shall be rated as ‘not appropriate for audiences under the age of eighteen.’
EU showdown against Hungary?
Two days after Munich – in a prelude to the EU summit (24/ 25 June) – a group of EU states (spearheaded by Luxemburg, Netherlands, Belgium), which was supported by the heads of state from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Austria, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, as well as by Latvia and Estonia (the only representative from Eastern Europe!), harshly condemned the Hungarian law, by emphasizing that “we must continue fighting against discrimination towards the LGBTI community, reaffirming our defense of their fundamental rights. Respect and tolerance are at the core of the European project. We are committed to carry on with this effort, making sure that future European generations grow up in an atmosphere of equality and respect.”
It is quite astonishing to observe that a several hours lasting discussion about the Hungarian law and the above mentioned declaration was dominating the EU heads of state debate. To be clear: the issue at stake is not one of tolerance against people who have different sexual orientation and live accordingly. The actual debate which goes on since quite a while, and which has its origin in the US, in reality wants to give room for those who want to make the LGTB debate an overriding principle of the EU Charter. Such a debate is betraying the noble principles that were once formulated by the European founding fathers Adenauer, Schumann and de Gasperi – in order to define a vision for a future European community of states, based on natural law, peace, justice, tolerance, common wealth and the inalienable rights of man.
Among the chorus of indignation during the EU summit one could hear voices like the one from EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who called the Hungarian law a “shame” and called for legal steps to be taken against Hungary. Aside her the European State Minister Roth (SPD) expressed outrage, underlining that article 1 of the European Charter of Fundamental rights (The dignity of man is inviolable) was violated, given that the Hungarian Law “stigmatizes” and “discriminates” Gays, Lesbians, Transsexuals, Bisexuals and Intersexuals, as well as acts in a “discriminatory way against minorities.” At the same time German Greenie Chancellor Candidate Annalena Baerbock called for a cut in EU subsidies to Hungary.
The shrill outburst against Hungary seems to coincide with a paradigmatic “phase change” that is taking place within the European Union since a while. What is at stake are indeed the values which were solemnly enshrined in the “Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union” dating back to 2000. Its seems now that those values, which all member states of the European Union have adhered to, are becoming an object of “arbitrary and sophist interpretation” and are no more serving as fundamental guidelines for a peaceful coexistence among nations.
The preamble of the European Charter states that the Peoples of Europe, in creating an ever-closer Union among them, are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values. It further states that the Union contributes to the preservation and to the development of these common values while respecting the diversity of the cultures and traditions of the peoples of Europe as well as the national identities of the Member States and the organization of their public authorities at national, regional and local levels.
Art 1 states: Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected.
Art 7: Respect for private and family life underlines that everyone has the right for his or her private and family life, home and communications.
Art 11: Freedom of expression and information, states: 1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
- The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.
Art 14: Right to education (which is key for the Hungarian Law) states that (1) Everyone has the right to education and to have access to vocational and continuing training. (2.) This right includes the possibility to receive free compulsory education. (3) The Freedom to found educational establishments with due respect for democratic principles and the right of parents to ensure the education and teaching of their children in conformity with their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions shall be respected, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of such freedom ad right.
One should add Art 21: Non- discrimination as well as Art 24: The rights of the child, which states that (1) Children shall have the right to such protection and care as is necessary for their well- being. They may express their view freely. Such views shall be taken into consideration on matters which concern them in accordance with their age and maturity. (2) In all actions relating to children, whether taken by public authorities or private institutions, the child’s best interests must be primary consideration.
“Political allegations” – the answer by Viktor Orbán
In a special article from PM Victor Orbán, published on his website, the Hungarian Prime Minister commented on Monday, the 28th of June (11th Samisdat) among others that “at the last European Council meeting, the rainbow-flagged prime ministers paraded in a phalanx. They wanted to clarify matters: Does the unity of values still exist? The debate was eerily similar to the one in June 2015, which erupted over the migrant invasion of Europe. Both were morally difficult, politically important and intellectually beautiful debates. And in both cases, the answer is the same: There is no unity of values and therefor no political unity either.” (….) In both cases, the liberals started from the premise that these were issues to which there was only one answer, one in line with the liberal hegemony of opinion. The response of the illiberal democrats was that there are different answers, in accordance with the pluralism of opinion, to which every state and people have a right, and that only an approach of ‘unity in diversity’ can hold the European Union together.”
“False allegations” – the answer by the Hungarian Justice minister
There was also an Op Ed written by Hungarian Minister of Justice Judith Varga, which was originally written for the European website “Politico Europe”. Politico, as Varga stated, however refused to publish the minister’s explanation. In her Op -Ed (June 25th) Varga had stated with deep concern: (…) “It is declared that Hungary adopted a discriminatory, homophobic law. No one cares that the declaration signed by several member states (EU) contains false allegations and falsifies the merit of Hungarian law by suppressing essential parts thereof. No one cares to notice that the focus of the law is the protection of children from any kind of sexuality- hence it cannot, by definition be discriminatory.”
She further emphasized that “the signatory member states did not even bother to ask for an official explanation from the Hungarian government before issuing the joint letter. Criticisms instead have generated an artificial conflict between the rights of children and the rights of the LGBT. Is this really the embodiment of loyal cooperation enshrined in the treaties?” According to Varga the “new law focuses on guaranteeing the rights of parents and protecting minors from accessing content that may contradict the educational principles their parents chose to teach them until they become adults themselves. Until that time however, all other actors- be it the states or schools- shall respect the rights of parents to decide on the sexual education of their children. This is what Hungary’s new law is about.” She then referred to Art 14 of the European Charter, which states that the right of parents to ensure the education and teaching of their children in conformity with their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions shall be respected in accordance with national laws governing the exercise of such freedom and rights.
The Hungarian justice minister emphasized very clearly that the new law is not at all directed against homosexuals or transsexuals, since by law they have the full right to express themselves: “The Hungarian law does not apply to the lives, sexual identity or practices of adults over the age of 18 – nor to how said adults wish to express or present themselves publically (….) Sexual orientation and gender identity fall under strict constitutional protection in Hungary.” Following the Equal Treatment Act (2004) Art 1, has stated that all persons in the territory of Hungary must be treated with the same respect and explicitly forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
With regard to children, their sexual culture, behavior, development or orientation, the Hungarian justice minister emphasized that “qualified experts in an age -appropriate and evidence- based manner, could contribute to their proper upbringing with appropriate direction and guidance from their parents and legal guardians.”