The European Commission has distinguished the Government of Catalonia with the European Capitals of Inclusion and Diversity Award for its policies for LGBTI+ equality. In particular, the silver prize has been taken in the special category of promotion of LGBT inclusion. The award gives special recognition to the incorporation of equality as an axis of government action and highlights the creation of the Ministry of Equality and Feminism and the Directorate General of LGBTI+ Public Policies. The award also acknowledges the deployment of the LGTBI Integral Care Services Network of Catalonia (SAI Network), which already has 114 services across the country.
The Minister for Equality and Feminism, Tània Verge Mestre, has collected the prize in the ceremony held today at the Hotel Le Plaza in Brussels. During his speech, Verge highlighted that “the regions play a major role in guaranteeing rights”, adding that “there can be no European agenda for inclusion and diversity without strong regional and local agendas for inclusion and diversity, which the Government of Catalonia sees as part of a broader feminist agenda”. The Minister has also noted that "in a context of attacks on LGBTI+ rights in several countries, strong equality policies are needed to counteract extreme right-wing groups and continue to move towards a fairer, more equitable society free of any expression of hatred". Finally, she explained that “the SAI Network, pioneer at European level, has set a milestone in the defence of the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans* and intersex in Catalonia”.
The Representative of the Government of Catalonia to the European Union, Ignasi Centelles Santana, and the general director of LGBTI+ Public Policies in the Department of Equality and Feminism, Xavier Florensa Cantons, have also attended the event.
The ceremony has been presided over by Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli, Vice-President of the European Commission Věra Jourová, and the representative of the Committee of the Regions Kate Feeney. Commissioner Dalli has welcomed the feeling of belonging and the exchange of values in European cities and regions and has stressed that "the dedication, effort and extraordinary work of the awardees are an inspiration for the rest".
The European Capitals of Inclusion and Diversity Award recognises the work of peoples, cities or regions of Europe in favour of the inclusion and creation of societies free from discrimination. It highlights those initiatives that may be a source of inspiration and that address discrimination on the grounds of sex or gender, sexual orientation, origin, race, ethnicity, religion, belief, disability or age.
At that year's call, 74 projects were presented from all over the European Union, of which around twenty were finalists. Finally, nine local or regional authorities in seven countries have awarded gold, silver and bronze in three categories: cities with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants, cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants and a special LGTBIQ award.
A consolidated and deployed network across the territory
The Integral LGBTI Care Services Network (SAI Network) is a public, quality and proximity service for the promotion of the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans* and intersex people in Catalonia. It provides information on LGBTI+ rights, orientation for job placement, support in gender transition processes, referral to health services, and support for victims of discrimination or aggression, even when such discrimination or aggression occurs from the institutions. The SAI also promotes awareness actions, in collaboration with local entities, and accompany municipalities and county councils in the development and deployment of LGBTI+ public policies. In this regard, the SAI Network not only responds to the immediate needs of LGBTI+ people and their environments, but promotes structural changes in public administrations and Catalan society.
The SAI Network was created in 2017 with the creation of a first focus point, within the framework of the implementation of Law 11/2014 to guarantee the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex and to eradicate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Currently, there are 114 services across the country, managed by local authorities and coordinated by the Directorate General for LGBTI+ Public Policies of the Ministry of Equality and Feminisms. The equality units of some public universities (University Pompeu Fabra, Autonomous University of Barcelona, University of Girona and University of Lleida) have also been incorporated into the SAI Network.
In this legislature, the Government of Catalonia has consolidated the SAI network with a substantial increase in funding. This 2023, the SAI network has a budget of 3.7M€, a which multiplies six times that allocated in 2021, before the creation of the Department of Equality and Feminisms.
Catalonia, pioneer of LGBT+ rights
Catalonia has historically pioneered the defense of LGBTI+ rights in the Spanish state. The first LGBTI+ associations emerged in Catalonia in the 1970s, coinciding with the first demonstration in Barcelona in 1977 for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
In 1998, Catalonia became the first territory of the state to recognize same-sex partnerships, including the right to adoption in 2005. Also, in 2014 the first law to protect LGBTI+ rights was passed (Law 11/2014), which has enabled the creation of the LGBTI Integrated Care Services Network. She also pioneered the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation, with Law 19/2020 on equal treatment and non-discrimination, which reinforces the fight against discrimination based on sex or gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, disability or serological status, among other forms of discrimination.