CHISINAU -- An EU envoy has urged Moldova to pass an antidiscrimination bill that would protect homosexuals and other minorities if it wants progress on talks for visa-free travel to the EU, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.
Dirk Schuebel, head of the EU delegation to Moldova, told RFE/RL in an interview that Brussels is aware of the opposition to such a bill from Moldova's Orthodox Christians, but said he nevertheless expects the parliament to pass it as an important part in realizing the country's EU aspirations.
Moldova's pro-EU government withdrew the antidiscrimination bill from parliament earlier this year after it became clear it would not get enough votes from deputies in the predominantly Christian, former Soviet country.
Adopting the bill was one of the commitments made by Moldova in a so-called "Action Plan" with the EU, which listed the legislative changes Chisinau should make before the 27-member bloc considers allowing Moldovans to travel within its borders without visas.
Moldova decriminalized homosexuality in the 1990s under pressure from the Council of Europe, but remains one of the few European countries where homosexuals are not protected under the law from discrimination.
The gay community in Moldova has been repeatedly denied permission to hold parades in the capital, Chisinau, and its members complain of discrimination and abuse -- both from other segments of society and law-enforcement agencies.