- The threat of the EU withdrawing funding is putting pressure on the Polish government over LGBT+ and women’s rights.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party may be divided about how aggressively to pursue attacks on LGBT+ and women’s rights.
The European Union has increased its threats to choke off funding to the country over the issue. And yesterday European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used her annual policy speech to the European Parliament to single out Poland for criticism.
Now, more ‘moderate’ elements in PiS, including Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, believe it is the wrong time to antagonize the EU further, according to news agency Reuters. Meanwhile ultra-conservatives are pushing the anti-LGBT+ and women agenda forward.
The EU is particularly alarmed by the rise of ‘LGBT Free Zones’ across Poland. Moreover, they noted the hate-filled re-election campaign of PiS candidate Andrej Duda who won his second term as Poland’s president in July.
Yesterday Von der Leyen told the European Parliament: ‘LGBTQI-free zones are humanity free zones. And they have no place in our (European) Union.
‘Breaches of the rule of law cannot be tolerated.’
She also promised ‘a strategy to strengthen LGBTQI rights’ in the EU.
Moreover, she is pushing for countries to recognize rainbow families across Europe. This is based on a central EU principle that citizens should be able to travel and work freely across Europe.
Von der Leyen added: ‘If you are a parent in one country, you are a parent in every country.’
‘We don’t need another front’
But the European Commission president is not the only EU figure demanding action over Poland’s stance.
Yesterday 32 Members of the European Parliament dressed as a human rainbow flag in protest at Poland’s homophobia.
The European Union has already rejected funding for six towns in Poland that have declared themselves ‘LGBT Free Zones’.
And Polish and European LGBT+ campaigners are demanding the European Commission starts ‘infringement procedures’. Those are lump sum or daily fines that the commission can impose on Poland.
As a result, Reuters say officials close to Prime Minister Morawiecki argue Poland should be pragmatic rather than risk financial penalties. After all, the coronavirus pandemic is already making the country’s economic difficulties worse.
‘We don’t need another front,’ one coalition official said.
However, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, reportedly doesn’t agree.
He leads the small Solidarna Polska or United Poland party, which is part of the PiS coalition. And he favors Poland leaving the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women.
Partly that’s because of his transphobic views. He previously criticized the treaty convention for teaching about gender in an ‘ideological’ rather than ‘biological’. Indeed, he described it as ‘a feminist creation aimed at justifying gay ideology’.
Thanks to Ziboro, the government compensated one town that lost its EU town-twinning application because it banned ‘LGBT ideology’.
LGBT+ Poles ‘cannot wait any longer’
The PiS has repeatedly stirred LGBT+ hatred in Poland to win elections.
Indeed, the chances of them reversing their anti-LGBT+ policies are small. However, what they choose to prioritize in their new legislative program this autumn could be significant.
Meanwhile, the EU now appears to be waking up to the LGBT+ problem and a range of other challenges in Poland, including the PiS attacks on an independent judiciary.
The European Parliament will vote today on a new report on fundamental rights in Poland.
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, a Spanish lawmaker who heads the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, prepared the report. He called the situation in Poland ‘extremely concerning’.
Moreover, the European Commission has another opportunity to act.
This week also LGBT+ campaigners from ILGA-Europe and Polish organizations KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia) and Fundacja Równości (The Equality Foundation) submitted their legal complaint about Poland to the commission.
In it, the activists explain how Poland’s ‘LGBT Free Zones’ violate a European Council Directive and Europe’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Moreover they say 400 Polish individuals have personally complained to the commission about the anti-LGBT+ policies.
Mirosława Makuchowska of KPH demanded action. She said: ‘LGBT people living in so-called “LGBT Free Zones” cannot wait any longer.’
However it remains to be seen, whether the commission will act or whether PiS may dial down its rhetoric to avoid antagonizing its European partners.