1st Edition

The European Union’s International Promotion of LGBTI Rights Promises and Pitfalls

By Markus Thiel Copyright 2022
    180 Pages 6 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    180 Pages 6 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book critically analyzes the European Union’s promotion of LGBTI rights in the international arena. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex rights are heavily contested across the globe, with over 70 countries criminalizing same-sex relations and at least 10 imposing the death penalty.

    The book details how the EU, based on different member state positions, attempts to jointly formulate and implement guidelines for the external promotion of LGBTI rights. It also problematizes the various normative and policy-based Eurocentric prescriptions to further these rights. Drawing on an international political sociology framework infused with queer theoretical thought, the author investigates the apparent normative tensions emerging from Europe’s promotion of LGBTI rights as liberal human rights and the ensuing pushback by culturally and politically conservative states. He examines the compatibility of EU institutional and member states’ conceptions of LGBTI rights and the more general question of the EU’s normative agenda-setting power on the world stage. He then explores the external policy areas in which LGBTI rights promotion is formulated and diffused – namely in development and foreign aid, in enlargement and neighbourhood policies, and in other international organizations. In conclusion, the author suggests viewing the contention surrounding LGBTI rights within broader governance contexts, and thus reimagining rights promotion in a more holistic manner.

    This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of LGBTI and Human Rights, European Politics, and International Relations.

    1. Introduction: An Artificial ‘Clash of Civilizations’?

    2. From Norm Diffusion to Norm Contestation: Europe as a Normative Actor

    3. LGBTI Rights Promotion Within the EU: Crafting Consensual Norms Where Few Exist?

    4. Homophobia and EUrophobia in Accession and Neighborhood Countries

    5. Development Policy and Foreign Aid: Conditionality and its Discontents

    6. Global and Diffuse? The EU’s Multilateral Promotion of LGBTI Rights

    7. Conclusion: Rethinking and Reimagining International LGBTI Rights Promotion


    Markus Thiel is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the Green School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University, Miami. He also directs FIU’s EU-Jean Monnet Center of Excellence. His research interests are the political sociology of the EU and European Politics more generally, Identity Politics and LGBTI Politics.

    'For more than a decade, an increasingly sophisticated literature has charted the effect that the EU has on LGBTI rights in its own member and accession states. This book is the biggest step yet toward a new frontier, one that looks at the EU’s impact on such rights far beyond its borders. Written by an expert on the inner and outer workings for the EU, and the varied positions of the member states, Thiel makes sense of the Janus-faced nature of EU foreign policy on LGBTI rights. He looks critically at the normative implications of such norm promotion, while not throwing out the simultaneous importance of an LGBTI foreign policy that activists could have only imagined some decades ago. Taking seriously the empirics and the process, this critical reading shines a light on the potential of softer social mechanisms of change—as opposed to hard conditionality—that should guide IOs in refining the ways they seek to make a positive impact in the world, as well as identifying their limits in doing so.'

    Phillip M. Ayoub, Associate Professor at Occidental College, USA, and author of When States Come Out

    ‘This book is a significant addition to the literature on the EU’s human rights policy. Thiel critically analyses the EU’s attempts to diffuse norms of LGBTI rights, in Europe and beyond, and exposes the weaknesses in both internal and external LGBTI rights promotion. Importantly, he demonstrates that the EU’s policies can backfire, and generate contestation by external actors, which in turn can damage the rights of LGBTI people on the ground. He calls for a more reflective and intersectional EU practice, within a broader foreign policy prioritising support for democracy.’

    Karen E. Smith, Professor and Head of the Department of International Relations at LSE, UK