Romania warned of EU entry block over anti-gay laws

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Series Details Vol.7, No.23, 7.6.01, p6
Publication Date 07/06/2001
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Date: 07/06/01

By John Shelley

MEPS have warned Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase that his country will not be welcome in the EU unless it abolishes its anti-gay laws.

A cross-party group of eight Parliamentarians has accused Nastase of backtracking on a promise to scrap the legislation and of stalling by repeatedly asking the Commission for clarification of what is required. "We very much regret the elimination of these provisions is once again incurring delays," writes the group, which includes MEPs from all the Parliament's main political groups and two committee vice presidents. "The frequent need for yet additional information from European institutions creates the impression that Europe is becoming a scapegoat for a fundamental decision which your government is unwilling or unable to take."

Romania's infamous 'Article 200' outlaws sex with someone of the same gender in a public place or in a manner that causes a public scandal.

Civil liberties group Human Rights Watch say this law has frequently been abused, citing the 1996 case of two 17-year-olds who they say were arrested after being seen kissing in the grounds of a restaurant. They were allegedly beaten by police who eventually forced them to sign confessions saying they had had full sex in public.

Campaigners say pressure from the EU since then has meant the law is no longer used to jail people, but that discriminatory laws are still used to ban gay and lesbian support groups.

MEPs say Romania's slowness in repealing the controversial rules shows it is not committed to equal rights. "Romania should not change its legislation because Europe wants it. Romania should change its legislation because it feels discrimination is unacceptable," they write.

Romania is not the only potential EU country with a poor record on gay rights; campaigners say Malta and Cyprus are not far behind.

MEPs concerned with lesbian and gay issues will hold a conference in Brussels on 28 June discussing the consequences for enlargement if such countries fail to adhere to EU standards.

Dennis van der Veur, advisor to the group, said: "We can hardly find any gay and lesbian people from these countries [Romania, Cyprus and Malta] who are willing to come to Brussels for the meeting because they are afraid they would become very visible back home."

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