People walking int he Pride parade in Helsinki on June 29, 2019. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The rights of sexual and gender minorities will be the theme of a high-level conference organized by Finland’s Ministry of Justice and the European Commission in Brussels on September 23-24.

The aim of the conference is to take stock of the progress made on the European Commission’s List of Actions to Advance LGBTI Equality.

Other objectives of the conference are to pave the way for the incoming Commission’s work on equality by offering new perspectives and to commit the EU member states to promoting equality.

At the conference, the European Commission will publish the results of the latest Eurobarometer survey on discrimination. The survey results show how attitudes have changed in the EU member states since 2015.

Overall, discrimination has decreased at the EU level. As many as 76 percent of the respondents believe that gays, lesbians and bisexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals, showing an increase of five percent in 2015. There are, however, great differences among member states.

“Although there has been progress on the rights of sexual and gender minorities in many EU member states, there are still differences in attitudes towards the rights of sexual and gender minorities among the member states. It is important to have an open debate based on our common European values to ensure continued progress,” says Thomas Blomqvist, the minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality, in a statement.

A functioning civil society plays an essential role in promoting the equality of sexual and gender minorities, according to Blomqvist. Cooperation between civil society and public authorities can create social structures to ensure everyone can enjoy their fundamental and human rights every day.

Fundamental and human rights are one of the main themes during Finland’s presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Around 450 experts from EU member states will attend the high-level conference organized as part of Finland’s presidency.