Demand to EU: Stop talking to Russia about tourism visa free status

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The Gay European Tourism Association (GETA) has written to the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, urging her to suspend negotiations on proposals to give 15,000 Russian officials the right to travel throughout the European Union without visas, in light of Russia’s recently introduced anti-gay laws.

In the letter Carlos Kytka, Executive Director of GETA, says that “in the 1930s Europe’s failure to speak and act against the state sponsored attacks on sectors of German people, including homosexuals, sent the wrong message to the Nazi Party and emboldened its actions with disastrous consequences for Europe. The European Union has recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and has a duty to act firmly to show its distaste for European countries that threaten the peace and nature of our continent through its repressive actions”.

GETA has also written to the 48 MEPs who earlier this year expressed their concerns about liberalizing visa restrictions for Russian officials because of the country’s human rights record, drawing their attention to the subsequent worsening situation and asking them to maintain their opposition. The European Parliament has the power of veto over all EU bilateral agreements and could scupper any deal with Russia.

GETA is also currently lobbying the International Olympic Committee and European sports ministers to ensure that gay people traveling to Sochi for the Winter Olympics are free to express their support for gay rights without fear of intimidation, violence and arrest.

“As Europe’s gay tourism association, GETA fights for gay people’s rights to travel freely in Europe” said Carlos. “This is a time for action, not words. If we can persuade the European Union to suspend these negotiations it will hit the Russian state and send a clear message that civilized countries have no patience with homophobia. Why should Russian official travel freely in Europe when gay people risk arrest and violence when traveling in Russia?”