Anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination is costing Eastern European countries almost 2% a year in economic growth.

On 27 April, a coalition of dozens of global companies promoting LGBTQ+ acceptance revealed that Hungary, Poland, Romania and Ukraine are losing billions of dollars each year.

According to a report from Open For Business (OFB), this is due to the lack of equality for the LGBTQ+ community in legislation and the workplace, as well as higher health costs related to HIV, AIDS and depression.

In all aforementioned countries, same-sex activity is legal. However, it’s difficult for LGBTQ+ people to live authentic lives as they are still denied the right to marry and are continuously met with discrimination and prejudice.

OFB found that these countries are facing a “brain drain” of skilled workers and are struggling to win foreign investment.

George Perlov, the report’s lead author, told the Thomas Reuters Foundation: “Countries that are more open (in terms of LGBT+ rights) are generally speaking financially and economically in a much better place.”

The recent anti-LGBTQ+ policies in Poland, in particular, have been met with widespread condemnation.

In 2o20, multiple municipalities and regions in the country hailed themselves as “LGBT-free zones” free from “LGBT ideology” – putting vulnerable LGBTQ+ citizens at risk of discrimination, prejudice and violence.

The EU subsequently withheld funding from these regions. Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, later clarified the decision in a powerful and defiant statement on Twitter.

“Our treaties in Europe ensure that every person in Europe is free to be who they are, live where they like, love who they want and aim as high as they want,” she tweeted. “I will continue to push for a #UnionOfEquality.”

Fifty countries from around the world also signed an open letter calling for Poland to “protect all citizens from violence and discrimination and to ensure they enjoy equal opportunities.”

Last year, French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune pledged to fight Poland’s “LGBT-free” zones following an interview with French gay magazine Têtu, where he publicly came out as gay.

During an official visit on 8 March, Beaune was told by Polish authorities that they “weren’t capable of planning this visit,” to which Beaune told French publication l’Obs: “I profoundly regret it. It is a decision that I deplore.”