The EU Commissioner for Enlargement Štefan Füle has refused a Conservative MEP’s request to suspend human rights funding to the Turkish Cypriot community following slow progress on the repeal of the ban on homosexuality in the northern part of Cyprus.
The current law on homosexuality in the northern part of the island dates back to British colonial times and has never been repealed or amended, despite of the fact that homosexuality is no longer illegal in Turkey or the Republic of Cyprus.
Marina Yannakoudakis, who is a member of the European Parliament’s High-Level Contact Group for Relations with the Turkish Cypriot Community, has been lobbying Turkish Cypriot leader Dr. Derviş Eroğlu to repeal the ban. Last month she wrote to the Commissioner calling on him to put more pressure on the north of the island including by withholding financial assistance to the Turkish Cypriot Community in the field of human rights.
EU-funded experts have been involved in preparing a draft of a law which includes an abrogation of articles 171-174 thereby repealing the ban on homosexuality. The draft has been ready since October last year but has not yet been set before the legislature.
“I welcome the EU’s efforts to fund amendments to this outdated and discriminatory law, but the Turkish Cypriot Community needs to realise that EU taxpayers – to say nothing of the north’s LGBT community – deserve deeds not words.
“To ensure that EU aid is used effectively in the northern part of Cyprus, the Commission must ensure progress. And if this means withholding assistance then so be it.”
Commissioner Füle in his reply to Mrs. Yannakoudakis said that he:
“Will obviously continue underlining the importance of urgently repealing the criminalisation of homosexuality” but rejected the Conservative MEPs proposal to stop aid saying that it “would deprive Turkish Cypriots, who are EU citizens, of a concrete token of our European solidarity.”