During her time as leader of the House of Lords between 2007 and 2008, Ashton was a vocal supporter of gay rights and guided some key pieces of legislation through the upper chamber. [...]Commenting before her appointment as EU foreign minister, Ulrike Lunacek MEP, co-president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, noted: “When it comes to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, I’m under the impression that Catherine Ashton is very willing to listen to both people and organisations in the countries she’ll visit.” Ms Lunacek continued: “Be it through quiet diplomacy or in public, she is clearly willing to talk about it. If the European Parliament approves her along with the other Commissioners later this month, she will be an asset to the global movement on LGBT rights”.
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said: "Stonewall is delighted at Cathy Ashton’s appointment. Cathy won the Politician of the Year award at the first Stonewall Awards in 2006. She was recognised for her work in making it illegal to discriminate against gay people when providing goods, facilities and services."
Here is hoping that during negotiations with the South Caucasus countries, Baroness Ashton will champion human rights, including gay rights and equality, as necessary preconditions for developing ties and integration with the EU. This is also an opportunity for local gay rights groups to raise the issues on the highest European level.
Baroness Ashton’s site at the European Commission
EUROPEAN UNION Brussels, 11 May 2010
Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on the adoption of negotiating directives for Association Agreements between the EU and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia
Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, made today the following statement:
“I welcome the adoption by the General Affairs Council on 10 May of the negotiating directives for the future Association Agreements between the EU and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The adoption of these negotiating directives is a clear sign of our strong commitment to further deepen the relationship between the EU and the countries of the South Caucasus, on the basis of shared values and principles, including democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
The Eastern Partnership, launched at the Prague Summit on 7 May 2009, provides an ambitious framework for taking the relationship with the countries of the South Caucasus to a new level. In this context, Association Agreements are an important instrument to upgrade our relations beyond existing commitments with a view of political association and gradual economic integration with the EU.
The negotiation process will be guided by the principles of inclusiveness and differentiation, as well as joint ownership. Successful implementation of the Eastern Partnership with the active engagement of the partner countries both in its multilateral and bilateral track will strengthen relations on the basis of shared values and will help advancing political and economic reforms, consolidate governance and foster regional stability, prosperity and confidence building.
I look forward to the launch of negotiations on these ambitious and comprehensive agreements with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia."
*picture - via BBC