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date: 26 July 2021

The European Union’s International Promotion of LGBTI Rights in its Foreign Relationslocked

The European Union’s International Promotion of LGBTI Rights in its Foreign Relationslocked

  • Markus ThielMarkus ThielDepartment of Politics and International Relations, Florida International University

Summary

Despite ongoing challenges, the European Union (EU) not only is a major actor on the world stage, but also emphasizes human rights for LGBTI individuals in its internal and external policies, thus setting a powerful example for acceptance and inclusion worldwide. While this establishes the EU as a presumptive normative actor from a liberal human rights perspective, a number of disputes over those rights policies and the way they are promoted have emerged in bilateral relations between the EU and other states in recent years. Given Europe’s colonial history, the fact that the bloc is collectively the world’s largest provider of development assistance, and the volatility of LGBTI human rights defenders, it is important to investigate how the EU and its member states promote LGBTI rights internationally. The EU institutions attempt to jointly formulate and implement guidelines for the external promotion of such rights, though no uniform rights standards exist across the various member states.

The compatibility of EU and member states’ conceptions of LGBTI rights and the more general question of how far the EU is, can, or should be a “normative” agenda-setting power on the world stage are central. This heavily contested but also popular ideational concept glosses over the limited consensus that exists in the EU with regard to many of its policies and the role it should assume in international affairs. Such incoherence is particularly evident in normatively contested and geopolitically intertwined areas like sexual rights and equality (ranging from nondiscrimination based on sexual and gender expression to positive rights of partnership recognition and childcare). To the extent that a common approach on LGBTI rights is developed, one can detect promotion attempts in the external policy areas in which rights promotion is formulated and diffused, namely in development and foreign aid, in enlargement and neighborhood policies, and in exchange with other international organizations. However, these come with their own politicizing issues, so that alternatives to the presently emphasized conditionality and visibility policies may provide a better way forward.

Subjects

  • Governance/Political Change
  • Groups and Identities
  • Political Sociology

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