Munich (Germany) (AFP) – EU leaders and Hungary traded barbs over Budapest’s anti-LGBTQ law on Wednesday as Germany staged a defiant display of rainbows following UEFA’s refusal to light Munich’s Euro 2020 stadium in rainbow colours.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen slammed as a disgrace the law passed by Viktor Orban’s government banning the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors, while Germany’s foreign minister said UEFA’s decision sent the “wrong signal”.
Hungary immediately hit back, calling von der Leyen’s statements “a shame”.
With Germany due to play Hungary in a key match on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena in Munich, city authorities had planned to light the stadium up in rainbow colours to “send a visible sign of solidarity” with Hungary’s LGBTQ community.
But UEFA refused the request and on Wednesday doubled down on its stance, with president Aleksander Ceferin saying the football body could not give in to “populist” demands from politicians.
UEFA also added a rainbow to its logo and in a statement said it was “proud to wear the colours of the rainbow” but could not grant Munich’s request to illuminate the stadium because it was “political”.
Businesses and individuals made a show of their opposition to UEFA and Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ stance ahead of Wednesday’s match, decking themselves in rainbow colours, while many stadia were planning rainbow light displays.
In Munich, German football fan Michael, 51, told AFP he would have liked to see the stadium lit up. “I don’t see it as political and I think that would have been a great signal,” he said.
But Hungary fan Csongor, 39, said the rainbow had “nothing to do with football… We feel that this is a campaign against Hungary, against the Hungarian national team, against the Hungarian government.”
– ‘Against EU values’ –
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen had earlier called the Hungarian bill a disgrace, saying it “clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation” and goes against “all the fundamental values of the European Union”.
At government question time in Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she considered the law to be “wrong and incompatible with my understanding of politics”.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, meanwhile, criticised UEFA, tweeting: “It’s true, the football pitch is not about politics. It’s about people, about fairness, about tolerance. That’s why @UEFA is sending the wrong signal.”
In France, a senior official said the presidency “deeply regrets” the decision to ban the rainbow display, adding that although UEFA is “religiously neutral and apolitical”, it “has values” and should show solidarity with Hungarians.
But Budapest hit back with a government statement calling von der Leyen’s comment “a shame because it is based on false allegations” and accusing her of voicing “a biased political opinion without a previously conducted, impartial inquiry”.
Budapest also praised UEFA for taking a stance against “provocation”, with stadia across Hungary preparing to light up in national colours in a tit-for-tat display during the Euro 2020 match.
– ‘Grave concern’ –
Orban has been at loggerheads with many Western EU nations over his stance on issues from immigration to press freedom. Hungary has also recently refused to sign up to joint EU foreign policy statements on Israel or Hong Kong, sparking frustration within the bloc.
Fifteen of the EU’s member states have signed up to voice their “grave concern” at the LGBTQ law that Budapest argues will protect children.
Vowing defiance, Munich put up six huge rainbow-coloured flags at its town hall and will illuminate a huge wind turbine close to the stadium, as well as the city’s 291-metre (955-foot) Olympic Tower.
“I find it shameful that UEFA forbids us to send a sign for cosmopolitanism, tolerance, respect and solidarity with the people of the LGBT community,” said Munich mayor Dieter Reiter.
Other stadia across Germany were also planning rainbow light displays, including Berlin’s iconic Olympic Stadium, as well as Bundesliga stadia in Cologne, Frankfurt and Wolfsburg.
German newspapers, such as the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, displayed rainbows on their front pages, while Bavarian industrial giants such as Siemens and BMW also decked themselves in rainbow colours on Twitter.
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