15th Aug 2020

Poland waives EU visa costs for gay pride march

The Polish foreign ministry has told Warsaw gay pride organisers that people from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine who want to take part in the march in June will temporarily be able to enter the EU for free.

The costs of a visa to enter the EU's so-called Schengen zone is normally €35 for Russians and Ukrainians and €60 for Belarusians, a big outlay in a country where the average wage is just €300 a month.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Russian and German campaigners at EuroPride in Warsaw in 2010 (Photo:

A Warsaw-based spokesman for the Polish EU presidency, Konrad Niklewicz, said the government is not interested in reputation-building in the run-up to taking over the EU chairmanship in July.

"Minority rights and gender equality are not specific parts of the presidency programme. These are values which the Polish government has always defended, whether there is a presidency or not," he said.

Niklewicz added that the Western stereotype of Poles as Roman Catholic homophobes is unfair: "Poland is a tolerant country and the vast majority of Polish society has absolutely no sympathy for any kind of intolerance toward minority groups."

The Polish presidency's spokesman in Brussels, Kacper Chmielewski, said Warsaw is keen to promote civil society in general in the EU's eastern neighbourhood.

The organisers of Warsaw pride, which is to take place on 11 June, have welcomed the Schengen fee waiver.

They expect several hundred people to come from the three non-EU countries. The move will help Warsaw pride become a "hub" for gay rights in central Europe, where levels of tolerance tend to get worse the further east you go, Warsaw pride spokesperson Jej Perfekcyjonsc said.

Warsaw pride last year pulled in between 6,000 and 12,000 people.

The 2011 edition is to see Polish centre-left MEP Joanna Senyszyn join the march, as well as MPs from the Polish socialist SDL and SDPL factions and from the Greens. The event will culminate in a mini-street party in central Warsaw.

Perfekcyjonsc said that anti-gay groups are likely to try to block the march, carry offensive banners and throw eggs, but that Polish police are "excellent" in stopping anybody who goes too far.

The spokesperson added that not all is as rosy in Poland as its diplomats suggest, however.

"Poland was extremely tolerant by the standards of the times in the 17th and 18th centuries. Then it changed. Now it's in the EU and it's a presidency country, and it's changing again because of these things. But the time has come to really catch up with the most progressive members of the EU."

Perfekcyjonsc said the ruling Civic Platform government is against registered civil unions.

The spokesperson added that the Civic Platform-affiliated and devout Roman Catholic mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, has declined to support Warsaw pride. Gronkiewicz-Waltz told organisers that if she backed one cause, she would have to back them all, including for example, nurses and coal miners.

"Not long ago, she patronised a march of labradors [a kind of dog] through Warsaw. It was to collect money for dog charities. We thought she might see fit to make an exception for a cause like ours as well, but we were wrong."

EU court bars tests for gay asylum seekers

Authorities in EU countries can no longer impose controversial psychological tests to determine whether an aslyum seeker is telling the truth about their homosexuality.

LGBTI protection still lacking in EU

Despite some welcome advances, some legal rights for the LGBTI community are lacking in EU member states, and the rise of the populist right is making things worse, conference in Warsaw is told.

News in Brief

  1. Most EU states oppose US sanctions on Russia pipeline
  2. UK imposes quarantine on France, Netherlands, Malta
  3. At least 3.5m EU nationals to stay in UK
  4. UK urged to 'calm down' on migrants
  5. Pompeo starts EU tour with anti-Chinese 5G deal
  6. Dutch lawsuit seeks billions from tech firms
  7. Amazon people urge EU banks to stop funding pollution
  8. Russia vaccine could be "dangerous", Germany says


The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us