Today on Europe day Seta´s International Affairs Committee interviews member of parliament Silvia Modigia (GUE/NGL). Written interview is below the video.
Hi! My name is Silvia Modig. I’m a first term member of the European Parliament. I’m representing Finland and my party the Left Alliance. Before the work in the European Parliament, I used to work in the Finnish Parliament where I was a member of the parliament for eight years.
What does it mean that the EU is declared an LGBTIQ Freedom Zone? What is this about?
Well, the declaration is an important statement on EU values and for equality and it’s an answer to the LGBTIQ Free Zones that Poland has established and to the deterioration of the minorities’ rights in several member states. Homophobic speech has become even the lead message of presidential campaigns and the hatred is growing. So, it’s a really important declaration but it is a declaration only when we need concrete political action and decisions. And that’s where a lot of work still needs to be done.
Was the resolution difficult to make in the parliament and why? What was the opposition of the declaration like?
The resolution was not hard to get because, first of all, the majority of the parliament sees the importance of defending human rights and there we have the majority of that. Then also it is against our common treaties to discriminate one part of the population because all the money the EU is spending must be on the benefit of all Europeans also the LGBTIQ people. So that’s why it was not hard to get the parliament on board but the concrete political legislative decisions is going to be more challenging. The opposition looks the same as it looks and sounds in those countries opposing rainbow rights. And in those countries and those parties they’re in power who stand for discrimination. The opposition looks very same in the parliament and it is something that is a much broader issue than just the LGBTIQ rights. It’s very important to see the bigger picture. If one person’s human rights are violated then human rights are violated as a whole, as an entity and therefore also your human rights are being violated even if you don’t belong to that certain group where the discriminatory action is at that moment. Human rights must be seen as a whole entity that belongs to all of us, and you cannot choose selectively which parts of the human rights you will believe in or work for. It is a whole entity. So, it’s a much bigger picture than only the rainbow rights.
What concrete actions are taken to secure LGBTIQ human rights in EU?
This is a really good question. What are the concrete actions? We have the “rule of law” mechanism. That has been put in place and that has been agreed to by all the three institutions. That means that the commission has the possibility and the power to act with economical sanctions if there are breaches of the principle of the rule of law in member states. This is one thing through which concrete action may be done. But then we have the LGBTIQ strategy which is the 1st in history for the EU. And within that strategy there are several demands of action. And following those proposals in the strategy we will come a long way. One very important thing I would raise from them is the recognition of families in cross-border situations. The LGBTIQ families must be protected and respected and their rights cannot be abolished when they cross a border. Things like these are in the strategy as demands for action from the commission. So, a lot of emphasis on that and that will bring us a long way if we get those to be realized.
What can a citizen of EU do to promote LGBTIQ rights in the EU and Europe?
That is a very good question. The best way for anyone to affect the society around you is to be the change yourself you want to see in others and you want to see in society. Also, to be an active citizen. To participate in all the ways that are possible to participate in. Joining campaigns, signing petitions, making citizens initiatives. Being a part of the public discussion, which then will set the political agenda as well. And of course, putting pressure on your own national parliaments. Is the legislation in order in your country? Is there an equal marriage law? Are the rights of transgender people based on their self-determination? Is that ok? Is adoption equal for all couples and all people. Things like this. It starts from those legislations that first give everybody their rights. So, there’s a lot an EU citizen can do. Then of course when you give your vote. First of all, always vote! And then choose to vote for a person or for a party who promises to work for these matters and for equality.