Title: Europe and LGBT Rights Credit: Craig Young Comment Saturday 31st December 2011 - 8:49pm1325317740 Article: 11258 Rights
In the United Kingdom, the Cameron administration has found itself on the wrong side of its European Union partners. But is it severely out of step with LGBT opinion on the subject? The Eurozone currency crisis has driven a wedge into the Cameron administration, with David Cameron and the "Eurosceptics" within his Conservative Party pitted against the pro-European Liberal Democrats, their coalition partner. "Euroscepticism" is predominntly limited to the Conservative Party and rival further right political entities like the "United Kingdom Independence Party" and British National Party. It consists of an obsession that the European Union is infringing on British national sovereignty, financial autonomy and economic growth and has existed ever since the United Kingdom joined the European Community in 1973. During the aggressively nationalist Thatcher era, it grew apace, which was to have serious consequences for her successor, John Major, and ensuing Tory leaders, As Tim Bale notes in his history of the party over the last decade, European policy has become a major internal obsession for the Tories and a party faultline. Outside the Conservative Party, however, it is negligible. Indeed, Scotland is at loggerheads with the Conservatives over their European policy, given that European development finance has been used to rebuild the country after the ravages of the Thatcher era. Cameron dislikes this intensely and almost seems to be urging Scotland to hold its independence referendum as soon as possible so that it can leave the United Kingdom and truncate Labour's potential electoral constituency in the process. What about LGBT Britons? Generally, the European Union is positively regarded on most issues. The European Court of Human Rights has been useful in forcing recalcitrant states into line with a broadly liberal policy consensus- such as the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eire, as well as a denunciation of Polish homophobia under Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski. However, it has not been so forthcoming over same-sex marriage proper within the United Kingdom and held that the United Kingdom was right to criminaise 'heavy' consensual sadomasochist sex between adult gay men ("Operation Spanner'). That said, the European Union has been proactive on decriminalisation, anti-discrimination reforms, general spousal equality and same-sex parenting issues. That said, there has been tension between progressive Western European nations (and Hungary and the Czech Republic) and more backward Eastern European states, such as Kaczynski era Poland and the constituent nations of the former Yugoslavia, especially Serbia (although the latter is not yet a European Union member, given its abhorrent human rights record of anti-Muslim religious persecution and genocide during the Bosnian War. It is also heavily indulgent of neofascist and extremist nationalist anti-gay violence). Reform can come, though. Poland has improved significantly since the Kaczynski era and the marginalisation of the former Law and Justice Party in Poland's Sejm. However, Slovakia and Hungary have had anti-Pride riots during the last year, mostly instigated by right-wing extremists and neofascists. Fundamentalist Christians don't tend to be aligned overtly to the Eurosceptic element of the Conservatives unless they are also members of either that party or the United Kingdom Independence Party, which wants a secessionist referendum on further British membership of the European Union. It doesn't seem to be the case that they regard Europe as a serious threat to British social conservatism. Nor are there any remaining conspiracist far right elements that regard the European Union as the core of a totalitarian superstate that will bring about the Apocalypse. Indeed, given the current Eurozone financial crisis, that particular conspiracy theory seems more laughable than ever before. But of course, the European Union has another, neoliberal agenda. Prosperous Germany holds its purse strings and has demanded that Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and other troubled Euro currency zone economies introduce austerity budgets that slash social service entitlements and comprehensive welfare state coverage, given the immense financial credit that has been forwarded to such EU economies. Unlike EU human rights and civil liberties reforms, this hasn't been so well met. At present, the Eurozone crisis is at the forefront of European policy concerns, over the fragility of the Euro, the common European currency and the financial stability of Greece and Italy, wracked by unrest over the introduction of austerity budgets designed to cut national budget deficits at the cost of social service quality. The United Kingdom never joined the European common currency and has been a holdout over further expansion of European financial authority, given its concerns over the City of London's financial district. Ironically enough, this has put David Cameron at loggerheads with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nikolas Sarkozy of France, both committed to the survival and wellbeing of the European Union- and both fellow centre-right political leaders. Within its own Coalition, the Liberal Democrats are heavily pro-European- although the general public are also bored about the debate and may well punish the Conservatives for obsessing over Europe at the cost of more pressing concerns about the spending cuts, social service quality and the austerity agenda of the Conservative-led government. Within the UK LGBT media, it's difficult to find any interest in this side of European politics. If there are any gay Tory Eurosceptics, they're keeping rather quiet about their objections to the EU- possibly because of EU fiscal conservative policies that support current Cameron administration government economic policy. For the most part, UK LGBT communities remain broadly supportive of European Union membership, if not its neoliberal austerity policies. Recommended: European Union and LGBT rights: ILGA: LGBT rights in Europe: Tim Bale: The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron: Polity Press: 2011. Craig Young - 31st December 2011    
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