Tuesday

1st Dec 2020

MEPs call on capitals to act on Poland's breaches

  • Some 32 MEPs dressed in rainbow colours on Tuesday to express solidarity with Polish LGBTI citizens who have been repeatedly stigmatised by senior Polish politicians (Photo: Greens-EFA Group in the European Parliament)

MEPs will vote on Thursday (17 September) on a report condemning further rule of law and fundamental rights violations in Poland.

The report, put together by Spanish centre-left MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, chair of the civil liberties committee, also calls for further action by the member states and the EU Commission on Poland.

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The commission in 2017 launched an Article 7 sanctions probe against Poland, governed by the nationalist Law and Justice party since 2015.

But despite several discussions between member states, and increasing worries over the direction Warsaw is taking, Poland has not been sanctioned, because this requires broad consensus and ultimately unanimity among other member states. Hungary has repeatedly shown willingness to stand up for Poland, and vice-versa.

At a debate on Monday in the parliament, some lawmakers called for the suspension of EU funds for Poland for breaking EU rules and stigmatising LGBTI people.

It is now the tenth such parliament resolution on rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in Poland.

Lopez Aguilar's report details the overhaul of the Polish judiciary, and how it threatens the independence of the courts.

The report also points to respect for media pluralism, freedom of expression, and the situation of minorities, especially of the self-declared LGBTI-free zones established in Poland.

In the debate Lopez Aguilar argued Poland is "slowly and surely moving away from the European values," calling the situation "extremely concerning", and a "constitutional breakdown".

Patryk Jaki, a Polish lawmaker from a party allied with the ruling Law and Justice, pushed back and accused MEPs of treating any policies that are not left-wing as an attack on the rule of law.

This was echoed by MEP Balazs Hidveghi from Hungary's ruling Fidesz, who said rule of law allegations are targeted against right-wing governments, and pointed to Slovenia and Bulgaria.

Warsaw received support from Maximilian Krah, from Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany party, who said the criticism was the "usual attacks on conservative politics."

Polish centre-right Andrzej Halicki, however, said the Warsaw government was placing itself about the law, and persecuting those who dare think differently. "We must never agree having courts of law politicised," he added.

Lopez Aguilar later told the press it is "ridiculous, that we have to hear as an answer that it is a leftist conspiracy".

"Is it a chance that the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission, many think tanks [...], the OSCE and the European parliament have spent time arguing about the deterioration of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in Poland? No, it is not a chance," he told reporters.

EU commission vice-president dealing with EU values, Vera Jourova, said the EU executive will soon decide on the next steps towards Poland over a controversial law disciplining judges.

She also said the commission is analysing the creation of so-called "LGBTI-free zones" in some regions, which have caused six Polish towns to lose some EU funding.

'We are humans'

On Tuesday (15 September), 32 MEPs, dressed in different rainbow colours, stood in from of the parliament's Brussels building, expressing solidarity with the LGBTI people in Poland.

It was a deliberate echo of an action by Polish MPs in Warsaw ahead of president Andrzej Duda's inauguration speech, after he won re-election in July after a campaign in which he called the LGBTI movement an "ideology" more dangerous than communism.

"If we do not take decisive action against a government that is punishing our people for simply existing, then what are we here for?", centre-right MEP Maria Walsh said in Monday's debate.

Terry Reintke, a German MEP with the Greens said she hoped Duda is watching the debate.

Turning and pointing to MEPs from Poland's ruling party, she said: "Look at me, look at Marc, look at Malin, look at Maria, we are not an ideology. We are human beings."

"We want to have exactly the same fundamental human rights like everyone else, I know deep inside of you, you actually know that. Stop using the LGBTI community for your disgusting political agenda," she said.

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