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Assessment – The European Union’s Worldwide Promotion of LGBTI Rights

The European Union’s International Promotion of LGBTI Rights: Promises and Pitfalls
By Markus Thiel
Routledge, 2021

Activists and political leaders within the International North have turned to LGBT rights as a key agenda merchandise in overseas coverage as a part of the liberal order, each normatively and within the provision of help. That is regardless of the shortage of cohesive coverage or constant and binding change on LGBT rights in their very own jurisdictions. On the similar time, students have been more and more important about these interventions, as have some sexual and gender minority activists within the International South. In my very own work I’ve documented the preemptive emergence of state homophobia in Uganda and the sociopathic dynamic of sovereign states basically (Bosia 2015) to criticize these overseas coverage initiatives. And because the publication of Improvement, Sexual Rights, and International Governance (Lind 2010), students together with Rahman (2014), Mason (2018), and Rao (2020) have pioneered important and decolonizing approaches within the examine of worldwide LGBT rights. Referencing this scholarship, The European Union’s Worldwide Promotion of LGBTI Rights provides the primary examination of the elaboration and effectiveness of EU overseas coverage on LGBT rights, each by way of EU establishments and people of member states, and notably hones in on the dynamics that problem LGBT rights interventions. EU scholar Markus Thiel’s innovation features a completely researched description of worldwide coverage processes and initiatives on LGBT rights to look at their implementation, reception, and effectiveness in accession states in Europe, neighboring states not thought of accessible for a direct EU embrace, and states liberated from European colonial empires. 

Thiel locations the problem to the EU’s overseas coverage on LGBT rights throughout the context of an insufficiently realized European normative energy, regardless of the muse of the EU in values. He lays out the problem thus: “In that sense, Normative Energy Europe (NPE) is constituted of each the considerably autonomous frequent establishments (such because the European Fee or the Parliament) which in a daily method vocally pronounce normative concepts and expectations … and the member governments, which can be roughly normatively motivated” (p.35). Inside this context of restricted sovereign or norms-bounded energy on the regional or nationwide ranges, Thiel notes that the EU meets quite a lot of inside and exterior pressures. These embody the “Potemkin” nature of pro-LGBT insurance policies adopted by candidate states, deserted or outright reversed quickly after admission to the EU; the admixture of homophobic and xenophobic insurance policies throughout the EU that make NPE hectoring at finest and neocolonial and racist at worst; and the transformation of as soon as radical sexual and gender minority calls for to be in step with the heteronormative and neoliberal agenda central to EU coverage making. 

The textual content is organized throughout 4 institutional dimensions. First, Thiel examines the inconsistent embrace of LGBT rights inside member states themselves. These variations are most blatant between the “outdated” democracies of Western Europe who based the EU and the “new” members in Central and Japanese Europe, however in addition they divide older Europe alongside a North-South axis, with Italy and Greece lagging on measures like full marriage equality (not accounted for are the lag in extending marriage in Germany and Northern Eire). Of explicit concern are the opposition of some member states, together with Poland and Hungary, to the centrality of LGBT rights to European values. Subsequent, Thiel turns to EU interventions within the enviornment the place Brussels (the EU capital) has been the simplest: accession to the union itself. LGBT rights had been on the agenda for institutional reform throughout the mandate to implement democratic decision-making processes previous to admission, with the EU offering experience and assist for these transformations. Consequently, the wave of admissions within the first decade of the 21st century was characterised by the elimination of impediments to citizenship resembling criminalization of sexual conduct. Later, nevertheless, the impact of those “Potemkin” adjustments, as Thiel describes them, was reversed in states central to the expanded EU. Hungary and Poland particularly have focused LGBT+ residents in rhetoric and coverage. The applying of such requirements even have been variously exploited by candidate states in addition to being undermined by the EU’s personal geopolitical priorities as different points related to accession got here to dominate over LGBT inclusion.

Lastly, Thiel turns to the EU’s position on this planet, specializing in growth help and conditionality in relationship to as soon as colonial states, and on the position of the EU inside worldwide establishments such because the UN. By the previous, the textual content lays out proof of suboptimal coverage making because it arrives by way of the identical colonial ideologies about civilization that the EU is hoping to suppress. From the angle of sexual and gender minorities, Thiel notes that strikes to situation help on EU normative priorities has been opposed by activists within the International South, because it included help in civil society as nicely. On the similar time, some recipient governments have characterised the EU’s method as colonial domination. Political leaders within the International South have used opposition to the EU’s agenda to solidify their very own standing as leaders of an ongoing battle for Nationwide Liberation from colonial rule, noting the distinctiveness of the nationwide values they’re developing in confrontation with the hazards of Europe’s “decadence”.

We’d learn the guide underneath overview to suggest that the EU has been most profitable in reaching change on the degree of Inter-Governmental Organizations. On the UN specifically, Thiel identifies the important thing position of the EU and its member states in putting LGBT rights on the establishment’s normative agenda, together with the appointment of an Impartial Professional on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification. Thiel, nevertheless, additionally calls our consideration to the restrictions of the EU method, together with the inconsistent assist amongst EU states and an rising coalition of hostile states throughout the EU.

Whereas Thiel supplies a transparent define of EU coverage making in a method that takes account of sequences and competing views, his evaluation of responses to EU coverage in his three instances within the International South – Uganda, Indonesia, Jamaica – are much less clear. For instance, close to Uganda he troubles the results of US and Evangelical interventions simply after 2000 and their direct participation in networks and in depth monetary help for AIDS programing. Removed from reacting to LGBT activism globally or domestically or embracing cultural homophobia, because the textual content implies, Uganda’s political management after 2000 espoused the targets of those US actors to focus on and marginalize sexual and gender minorities in ways in which created a “homosexual peril” and a homophobia that didn’t exist prior, spurring native activism and world consideration. However shifts in EU and particularly US intervention after 2012 additionally prevented the reintroduction of a draconian anti-LGBT invoice and offered extra in depth direct monetary help to packages that supported sexual and gender minority organizing.

Thiel’s textual content is a worthwhile useful resource for students of LGBT rights usually and the EU normative agenda specifically, and regardless of the brevity of its three International South case research, it supplies the most effective researched descriptions of the coverage course of and challenges confronted by the EU as a regional and world actor. For these whose curiosity in activist methods and responses is piqued by this textual content’s give attention to EU coverage, important readings of EU and US world interventions on LGBTQI+ rights from Japanese European, migrant, and International South views, trans, nonbinary, and queer students, and ladies and students of shade embody the gathering “Murderous Inclusions,” organized for the Feminist Journal of Worldwide Politics by Haritaworn, Kuntsman, and Posocco (2013); the contributions of Rahman, Gray and Attai, Stevens and Chaudhry, and others in The Oxford Handbook of Global LGBT and Sexual Diversity Politics (2020), in addition to Rahman’s 2014 guide; Mason’s collection on queer growth research (2018); Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth (Lennox and Waites 2018); EU Enlargement and Gay Politics (Slootmaekers, Touquet, and Vermeersch 2016); and the work of Dean Cooper-Cunningham in Safety Dialogue (2022) and elsewhere that focuses on the activist response to what he calls Putin’s Heteronormative Internationalism.

In conclusion, Thiel’s scholarship factors to the significance of sexual and gender identification politics as central to, and never on the margins of, world and worldwide politics. Distinctive in finding out the EU as a worldwide and never simply regional growth actor, Thiel ties collectively questions of institutional leverage and blended sovereignty with processes of western domination and decolonization, centering LGBT rights as a fancy web site of intervention the place the liberal order comes undone.


Bosia, M.J. (2015). “To Love or to Detest: Modernity, Homophobia, and LGBT Rights.” M.L. Picq and M. Thiel, eds, Sexualities in World Politics: How LGBTQ Claims Form Worldwide Relations. Routledge, New York and London.

Bosia, M.J., S. McEvoy, and M. Rahman (2020). The Oxford Handbook of International LGBT and Sexual Range Politics. Oxford College Press, New York.

Cooper-Cunningham, D. (2022). “Safety, Sexuality, and the Homosexual Clown Putin meme: Queer Concept and Worldwide Responses to Political Homophobia.” Safety Dialogue, on-line first.

Haritaworn, J., A. Kuntsman, and S. Posocco, eds. (2013). Murderous Inclusions. Worldwide Feminist Journal of Politics, 15:4. 

Lennox, C., and M. Waites (2018). Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification within the Commonwealth. Human Rights Consortium, Institute of Commonwealth Research, Institute of Superior Research, College of London, London. 

Lind, A. ed. (2010). Improvement, Sexual Rights, and International Governance. Routledge, New York.

Mason, C.L., ed. (2018). Routledge Handbook of Queer Improvement Research. Routledge, New York and London.

Rahman, M. (2014). Homosexualities, Muslim Cultures and Modernity. Palgrave, London.

Rao, R (2020). Out of Time: The Queer Politics of Postcoloniality. Oxford College Press, New York.

Slootmaekers, Okay., H. Touquet, and P. Vermeersch, eds. (2016). EU Enlargement and Homosexual Politics. Palgrave McMillan, London.

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