Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden signed a joint declaration expressing “grave concern” about the law, which bans gay people from appearing in school materials or programmes for under-18s.
“The legislation is disgraceful and has no place in the EU,” Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne said in a statement after signing the declaration.
The law has been presented by the hard-right government of Viktor Orban as a measure to combat child abuse. Rights groups have warned it will deprive young people of important sexual education information and fuel a climate of hostility towards gay people by linking homosexuality with paedophilia.
It bans the “portrayal and the promotion of gender identity different from sex at birth, the change of sex and homosexuality”, and is expected to curb advertisements, television shows or films that depict gay people if they are deemed to target minors.
In a joint statement initiated by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the 13 EU states said stigmatising LGBT people was a breach of their “fundamental right to dignity” as set out in international law.
“It represents a flagrant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and hence deserves to be condemned,” the declaration read. “Inclusion, human dignity and equality are core values of our European Union, and we cannot compromise on these principles.”
Mr Byrne called on the European Commission to take fresh infringement proceedings against Hungary in response.
“While there are conservative populations in Europe that haven’t come along the road as regards equal marriage and so on – this is something different, it’s a deliberate targeting of one section of the population,” he told The Irish Times.
“It basically links homosexuality with paedophilia, with violence, with what they describe as ‘gratuitous sexuality’.”
The declaration was issued as the EU’s European affairs ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss ongoing proceedings against allies Budapest and Warsaw over accusations of breaches of the rule of law, including the curtailment of media freedoms in Hungary and attempts to stack the judiciary in Poland.
In rounds of questions, the ministers – at least two of whom are openly gay – grilled the Hungarian and Polish representatives in exchanges described as passionate and tense.
Hungary’s foreign minister defended the law. “There is a global fake news campaign on the law on child protection,” Peter Szijjarto told journalists, adding that “99 per cent of critics do not read the entire law”.
It came after European football’s governing body UEFA prohibited the lighting up of Munich’s Allianz Arena in the rainbow flag during Germany’s Euro 2020 match with Hungary, which had been proposed by the city mayor as a response to the new law. UEFA said it had declined the request because it was political.