Sunday

5th Jul 2020

EU threatens Polish funding over 'LGBTI-free' zones

  • Gay Pride rally in Warsaw in 2017. Polish government was "instrumentalising hatred", one MEP said (Photo: Lan Pham)

The EU has threatened to cut pandemic-recovery funds to Polish regions on grounds of their gay-bashing declarations.

The thinly-veiled threat came in a recent letter from the European Commission, seen by EUobserver, to five Polish local governors who had declared their regions to be "LGBTI-free" zones.

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The EU was currently deciding how to spend extra money to "counter the coronavirus impact in Poland", the letter said.

But, at the same time, the commission wanted the governors' "assessment of the risk of discrimination" in how the new funds would be allocated, for instance, to local businesses who refused to employ gay people.

It also urged the governors to adopt new "measures promoting equality and non-discrimination" in their regions and to confirm, in writing, what they planned to do.

The letter was signed by two top officials, Joost Korte and Marc Lemaître, who are also in charge of signing EU cheques to member states on social and regional projects.

They had seen complaints by Polish citizens on the "increasing anti-LGBTI community rhetoric in Poland", the officials noted.

They cited chapter and verse of EU law on Poland's obligations to protect minorities in their three-page letter.

"While at the same time they [Polish governors] are using EU funds ... these actions [LGBTI-free declarations] result in [some] citizens' fear of being discriminated [against] by these authorities, or being beaten by other citizens, or losing [their] jobs," Korte and Lemaître said.

And the problem reached the top of Polish politics, a group of pro-LGBTI MEPs also warned on Wednesday (17 June).

Polish president Andrzej Duda was guilty of "instrumentalising hatred" to try to win upcoming elections, Marc Angel, a left-wing MEP from Luxembourg said.

"It is unacceptable to have a president of a member state of the EU acting in complete violation of the treaties and the values on which the European Union is founded," independent Italian MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo also said.

They spoke after Duda, on 10 June, adopted what he called a "family charter", which was to "protect" children from "LGBTI ideology" in schools.

Europe's pro-LGBTI values were "more destructive" than communism, Duda also told a campaign rally last weekend.

New front

The commission letter opened a new front in the clash with Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, in a move which even surprised some other EU institutions, such as the Committee of the Regions in Brussels.

Korte and Lemaître's broadside came on top of previous EU sanctions threats and court injunctions designed to stop PiS from seizing control of Poland's judiciary.

It also came amid talk of slashing Poland's share of the next EU budget and amid doomsday speculation that if PiS kept Poland on the same trajectory, it might accidentally crash out of Europe, the same way the UK did.

For its part, PiS and Polish diplomats say the EU has no right to interfere in its domestic affairs.

But for Polish opposition leaders, such as former foreign minister Radek Sikorski, who is now an MEP, the PiS and its chairman, Jarosław Kaczyński, had a radically anti-European vision for the EU's sixth-largest member state.

"He [Kaczyński] wants to create a [Roman] Catholic state of the Polish nation. His vision is that of Salazar, or rather Franco," Sikorski recently told EUobserver, referring to António Salazar and Francisco Franco, two 1970s far-right dictators in Portugal and Spain.

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