Dear All,

I cannot be with you in person today, but I did not want to miss the opportunity to welcome you to ILGA's annual conference. I am pleased to lend my support to this vibrant space for discussion on LGBTI rights in Europe and beyond.

We have recently seen homophobic statements made by a number of political leaders. At the United Nations General Assembly in September, First Vice-President Timmermans made it clear that human rights are for everyone and LGBTI people must not be an exception. I fully endorse his views and will not hesitate to speak out against homophobia and transphobia.

We are also seeing that a narrative undermining LGBTI rights is quietly spreading, often disguised as so-called religious principles. This is unacceptable.

First Vice-President Timmermans and I recently held a conference in Brussels on antisemitism and islamophobia, where we also discussed online hate speech and how to combat it. It is clear that we must fight all hate speech, online and offline, whatever group of society it targets. We will work with internet providers to ensure hate speech is taken off the web as soon as it's reported.

Let us look at the situation in the European Union. The latest Eurobarometer on discrimination shows general support at EU level for equal rights for LGBT people.

71 percent of respondents say that gays, lesbians and bisexuals should have the same rights as everybody else and 63% are in favor of legal gender recognition for transgender citizens.

However, we need to read this figure with caution: when it comes to social acceptance of LGBT people in daily life situations, respondents are less accepting. Less than half of respondents (44 percent) say they would be comfortable if their son or daughter had a relationship with a person of the same sex, and only 49 percent are comfortable with gay couples showing affection in public. For transgender people, the levels of acceptance are also low. Overall it is important to highlight that there are great variations of these figures between countries.

What we need is to raise awareness of the benefits of diversity. To this end I will launch an EU-wide campaign to promote LGBTI-equality in 2016. I am counting on your support to make it a success and bring about real change. The campaign will be part of Commission's wider effort and actions I plan to implement in coming years to ensure the rights of LGBTI people and their acceptance are enforced.

The Equal Treatment Directive is also a priority for me. As you know, this piece of legislation will extend the protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the EU to key areas like access to goods and services or education.

The theme of today's conference is a call for a united movement for a just society. This motto perfectly captures what we need to do. If we want to move the equality agenda forward, we need a united effort from civil society, businesses, straight allies and national governments.

I have asked my colleagues from DG Justice and Consumers to be at your conference. We want to hear your views and opinions on what we can do to ensure that LGBTI people have the same rights as everyone else. 

I wish you a fruitful and successful conference.