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28th May 2022

EU funds at risk, as Polish region upholds anti-LGBTI 'anthem'

  • Kraków in southern Poland is now one of over 100 'LGBTI-ideology free' zones (Photo: jesuscm)

Poland's ruling party and the Roman Catholic church have put a Polish region at risk of losing €2.5bn by enforcing its anti-LGBTI "declaration".

The ruling nationalist-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party openly whipped its delegates at a regional assembly in the Małopolska district in southern Poland, which covers the city of Kraków, into voting to uphold a 2019 declaration that the area was an "LGBTI ideology-free" zone.

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A Polish archbishop, Marek Jędraszewski, had also preached in two public sermons ahead of the vote for the PiS delegates to toe the line.

The vote, on Thursday (19 August), saw the declaration upheld by 22 against 15, most of whom came from the opposition, centre-right Civic Platform party, which had called to overturn the old declaration.

The decision came despite the fact the European Commission warned the regional authority in a letter in July that it stood to lose €2.5bn in EU funds in the 2021 to 2027 period if the "discriminatory" text was upheld because it contravened EU values.

"What should we do? Choose pragmatism, realpolitik, as some say, or unambiguously defend our values, honour, genuine freedom?", Jędraszewski, the archbishop, had said in a sermon on 15 August.

Meanwhile, commenting on the outcome, PiS education minister Przemysław Czarnek congratulated the local deputies.

"This shows that, in Poland, in the beautiful, vast region of Małopolska, we stand firmly behind values, behind the family, behind rules which are imperative for Poland, for Europe, to develop," Czarnek said.

The vote came after a four-hour long debate in which Jan Duda, the father of Polish president and PiS loyalist Andrzej Duda, also spoke out in favour of the anti-LGBTI declaration, which he called Poland's "Marseillaise", by comparison to the French national anthem.

"Perhaps the European Commission doesn't understand what Christian values are," Duda said.

"Profanation of holy mass. Everyone saw it. Vandalism of blessed and holy statues ... I don't know who it was, but he walked into church with an axe," the Małopolska regional assembly's PiS-party speaker, Witold Kozłowski, also said, referring to an incident in 2019, which he blamed on LGBTI "ideology", but which, in reality, involved a drunk who had nothing to do with gay rights.

"Be careful what you say. Check your facts, because people are listening," Daria Gosek-Popiołek, a local deputy from Civic Platform, noted in the debate.

"I wonder what have LGBTI representatives ever done to you [PiS], since you want to exclude them, since you call them an 'ideology', even though they're just people?", Civic Platform's Marek Sowa said.

"Once again, the hatred and anger of PiS turned out to be more important than the welfare of [Polish] citizens, and they [ordinary people] will suffer the most from this decision," Robert Biedroń, an openly gay, left-wing Polish MEP, added in reaction to Thursday's events.

Uneuropean?

Declarations on "LGBTI ideology-free zones" have no legal force, but call to ban promotion of homosexuality in public life, especially schools.

They have been adopted by over 100 local authorities, mostly in south-west Poland, under PiS' patronage and have already led to symbolic cuts in EU funds in some cases.

Meanwhile, the Polish-EU dispute on protection of LGBTI minorities is just one among many, which also cover women's rights, freedom of the press, judicial independence, the primacy of EU law, and PiS' xenophobic and eurosceptic rhetoric.

"The Małopolska Region expresses a strong opposition to the emerging public activities aimed at promoting the ideology of LGBTI movements, the goals of which violate the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in the acts of international law, question the values protected in the Polish constitution, and interfere with the social order," the Małopolska assembly's 2019 declaration says.

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