The European Commission, the executive body that governs the European Union (EU), has clarified that respect for gay rights is a legal criterion for EU accession, EUObserver reports.

In a written statement, the commission cited the 1993 so-called Copenhagen criteria for EU eligibility and Article 2 of the EU Treaty, which prohibits discrimination against “minorities”.

It also cited articles of the EU Treaty and European Charter on Fundamental Rights, which explicitly forbid discrimination on grounds of “sexual orientation”.

“Rights of LGBT people thus form an integral part of both the Copenhagen political criteria for accession and the EU legal framework on combatting discrimination,” it stated.

“They are closely monitored by the EU Commission, which reports annually on the progress made by enlargement countries with regard to the situation of the LGBT community.”

The written note was sent to EUobserver in response to a question born of an interview with an Armenian cleric.

Armenia is keen to become an EU member but has few legal protections for LGBT people and does not prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

It also does not recognise any form of same-sex partnership and has no provision for legally changing one’s gender, according to a recent study by the Brussels-based rights group, Ilga-Europe.

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