When Germany and Hungary clash in the Euro 2020 football tournament Wednesday the game will be seen as much more than a game. It will be another front in the war for the future of a more tolerant Europe.
On one side is Hungary, led by right-wing autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whose government has adopted a law last week banning homosexuals from appearing on TV shows or educational material for citizens aged 18 and under. On the other, Germany, the first nation of the European Union, which, along with other countries, has condemned the law as discriminatory and emblematic of Hungary’s democratic retreat under Orbán.
The week-long political stalemate has spilled over into the continent’s renowned football tournament, the quadrennial UEFA European Football Championship, which takes place this year after being postponed to 2020 due to the pandemic coronavirus. While the games mainly show which national team is stronger, they sometimes serve as a platform for expressing political grievances – and the timing of the Germany-Hungary match provided such a step.
The city of Munich, which will host the match, has requested permission from the European football governing body (UEFA) to light up the stadium in rainbow colors as a clear rebuke of Hungary’s anti -LGBTQ. But nominally apolitical UEFA declined the request on Tuesday.
“Given the political context of this specific request – a message aimed at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament – UEFA must decline this request,” the body said in a statement. declaration. And then Wednesday, in response to the backlash of his decision, UEFA tweeted that “the rainbow is not a political symbol, but a sign of our firm commitment to a more diverse and inclusive society”.
This did not prevent the Germans from expressing their dissatisfaction with this decision. The colors of the rainbow will light up the Munich City Hall and Olympic Games Tower During the match, several stages the whole country will light up with these colors, and around 11,000 German fans will hoist pride flags inside the Allianz Arena. German captain goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will also continue to wear his rainbow captain’s armband.
Hungarians – namely Orbán and his supporters – feel differently. The Prime Minister canceled his initial plans to attend the game and lambasted officials in Munich for their request. “Whether the Munich football stadium or another European stadium is lit in the colors of the rainbow is not a decision of the state,” he said. German News Agency dpa Wednesday. “In Communist Hungary, homosexuals were persecuted. Today, the state not only guarantees the rights of homosexuals, but actively protects them.
It is therefore clear that the law has sparked a disagreement that extends far beyond the football field. This feeds into the central and long-standing argument about what the European Union stands for.
Hungarian anti-LGBTQ + law is ‘a dangerous time’ for the EU
In March, the Parliament of the European Union declared the bloc “”LGBTIQ Freedom Zone,Which means the 27 countries should serve as a safe space for everyone in this community.
Apparently, the EU legislator made the statement in response to a Polish law declaring 100 “LGBT-free zones” and the worsening situation of LGBTQ + people in Hungary. But Nicolas Delaleu, Parliament’s press secretary, told me that the measure concerned something broader. “It’s a more general reaction than [those laws] did not represent fundamental European values, ”he told me. “They go against what the EU stands for.
By passing the law last week, Orbán’s government therefore grappled with the EU’s sense of inclusiveness that it is more recently cultivated. This is why the leaders of Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, France, Ireland, etc. spoke out so forcefully against the new Hungarian rules.
“I consider this law to be wrong and incompatible with my understanding of politics,” said the German Chancellor. Angela Merkel said Wednesday. “It is a very, very dangerous time for Hungary, and for the EU as well,” said Thomas Byrne, Irish Minister for European Affairs.
Tensions are also high on Twitter, with Hungarian and German officials berating each other for their positions. After openly gay German European Minister Michael Roth says Hungarian law goes against EU values, Hungarian justice minister Judge Varga replied that “it is not a European value to carry our sexual propaganda on our children”.
Now a punishment for Hungary may be in the works.
Ursula von der leyen, head of the European Commission and one of the main leaders of the bloc, said on Wednesday that Orbán should expect action soon. “The Hungarian bill is a disgrace,” she told reporters in Brussels. “I have instructed my responsible commissioners to write to the Hungarian authorities to express our legal concerns before the bill enters into force. However, the Hungarian president should sign the bill and make it imminent law.
This is not the only time that Hungary has tested the EU on its values. Orbán continues to thwart EU goals of accepting asylum seekers and refugees, even as the bloc wants to be a more welcoming destination for those who need it. And in the face of elections next year, it is likely that Orbán will continue to reinforce his ultraconservative good faith by supporting other similar measures that harm LGBTQ + people, asylum seekers and others.
With his anti-LGBTQ + initiative, the Prime Minister trying once again to pull the EU towards its right-wing vision of a less multicultural Europe. But Tuesday’s soccer game against Germany will be another reminder that it faces stiff opposition.