Wednesday

22nd Sep 2021

Six 'LGBTI-free' Polish cities left out of EU funding

  • Warsaw Pride march in 2019: There are about 80 Polish municipalities self-declared to be "free from LGTBI ideology" (Photo: Miłość Nie Wyklucza)

The European Commission has rejected grants under a twinning programme for six Polish cities which declared their communities "free" from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex communities (LGBTI).

"Our treaties 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. I will continue to push for a union of equality," said commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday (30 July), commenting on the issue.

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Under the EU's Town Twinning programme, local authorities can receive grants of up to €25,000 to help visitors from other communities to take part in joint development programmes and events that encourage public debate at EU-level.

So far, 147 projects have been selected, to receive more than €2.3m established under this funding programme.

The commission's decision to exclude the six municipalities from funding was taken after local Polish authorities failed to clarify whether the national anti-LGTBI rights resolutions would not allow access to some citizens.

As a result, the commission rejected these six applications for failing to meet the programme's standards of "equal access and non-discrimination".

According to the guidelines of the programme, project promoters should pay due attention to the necessity of promoting equal opportunities - ensuring accessibility to all European citizens without any form of discrimination based on gender, ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

It was not immediately clear which Polish towns and cities were rejected. There are about 80 municipalities, primarily in south-eastern Poland, self-declared to be "free from LGTBI ideology".

Polish justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro condemned the decision and accused the commission of discriminating Polish citizens.

"We will not allow discrimination of Polish citizens and local governments by the European Union," Ziobro said on social media.

"The Union must respect the equality of all its citizens, who have the right to form their opinions and beliefs freely," he added.

In June, the commission directors-general for urban policy and employment, Marc Lemaître and Joost Korte, warned Polish authorities about cuts in pandemic-recovery funds to those municipalities who had declared their regions to be "LGBTI-free zones".

The move was interpreted as the first step of this week's decision.

During this month's European Council summit, EU leaders agreed - for the first time - to link EU funding to the respect of the rule of law, but Hungary, Poland and others watered down an earlier proposal linked to "generalised deficiencies" in good governance.

The commission will be able to propose measures in case of rule-of-law breaches, while a qualified majority of countries can agree to sanctioning countries at fault.

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