September 25, 2023



Hungarian anti-transgender row threatens EU ‘credibility,’ Czechs say

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Hungary is yet again trying to force the EU to compromise on its values.

The Czech EU presidency has written to ambassadors from all 27 member states warning that the bloc’s global leadership on gender issues risked being undermined by the anti-transgender position of “one delegation.” Two EU diplomats pinpointed the country: Hungary.

In a Wednesday meeting between the ambassadors, a “clear majority” of member states wanted the EU to push for inclusive language on gender at the COP15 U.N. biodiversity talks in Montreal. Specifically, they supported references to “all genders” and “women and girls in all their diversity,” said the Czechs in their note, which has been reviewed by POLITICO. The references broaden the definition of gender beyond the male-female binary to acknowledge a sweep of identities.

But Hungary’s representative told ambassadors such language was unacceptable, one of the EU diplomats said.

That means the EU may not be able to take a unified position on the issue at COP15, which started Wednesday.

The EU’s principled global leadership was at stake, the Czechs wrote in their Wednesday note. “In order to keep our credibility, the EU as one of the strongest advocates of gender equality should not remain silent on this issue in Montreal.”

During the meeting, a group of 13 countries expressed deep concern about “the attempts to undermine the notion of gender,” the EU diplomat said.

A Hungarian government spokesperson said the country “recognizes and promotes equality between men and women” in accordance with its laws. That means gender and biological sex have the same legal meaning, they said. “While we were open to find a compromise, unfortunately consensus on certain aspect could not be reached, which we very much regret.”

It comes in a week when Hungary blocked €18 billion in EU aid for Ukraine in an escalation of a dispute over Budapest’s undermining of EU democratic values.

The diplomats said Hungary wasn’t alone in expressing unease. Bulgaria’s representative told the meeting the reference to “all genders” contravened a ruling on the definition of gender by the country’s constitutional court. That didn’t mean Sofia would block the EU position, a spokesperson for the Bulgarian permanent representation said. “Usually we make a declaration with this explanation and that’s all,” the official explained.

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