Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Monday, 10 December 2012

EU fundamental rights debate

On 11 December 2012 MEPs held their annual debate on fundamental rights in the EU.

A resolution by the Civil Liberties Committee - but questioned by the centre-right EPP group - calls on EU countries to defend the rights of people belonging to "national minorities", for example ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia.

It also contains strong criticism of the treatment of Roma people in the EU, saying that many members of the Roma community are subjected to "collective expulsions".

The European Commission is criticised for not doing enough to protect the rights of the Roma, of which there are more than a million across the EU, with the majority in Bulgaria and Romania.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy's demolition of illegal Roma camps and expulsions in the summer of 2010 drew protests from France's neighbours.

The debate was also used to highlight the conditions of asylum seekers in the EU, saying that member states should introduce alternatives to detaining migrants in prison-like institutions.

MEPs used the debate to raise the issue of LGBT rights in the EU, with a majority of MEPs on the committee arguing that LGBT rights will be better safeguarded if EU member states provide legal institutions such as civil partnerships or equal marriage.

Six EU countries recognise gay marriage, with a further 10 countries allowing civil partnerships.

Four countries - Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland - have a constitutional ban on same-sex partnerships, whilst the remaining countries simply have no recognition of civil unions.

The resolution was passed during the daily voting session on 12 December 2012. MEPs rejected an alternative resolution by the centre-right EPP group that urged MEPs not to involve "ideology" in debates on fundamental rights.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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