EU: Polish regions at risk of lost funding over ‘LGBT-free’ zones

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

The European Commission has written to five Polish regional councils urging them to abandon declarations that they are “LGBT-free” in order to receive funding, one of the councils affected confirmed last week.

The European Union executive is currently at loggerheads with Poland and Hungary over issues ranging from LGBT rights to press freedoms. In July it launched legal action against both countries over measures it says discriminate against the gay community.

Polish LGBT activists posted a scan of the letter on social media and on Monday a spokesman for the Lubelskie region confirmed receiving it. A European Commission spokeswoman in Warsaw also confirmed the letter had been sent.

“The Commission would like to stress that declaring LGBTIQ- free/unwelcome territories, workplace or services constitutes an action that is against the values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union,” the letter said.

It added that extra funding under part of the bloc’s COVID recovery fund would be put on hold pending the regions’ responses to the Commission’s concerns.

The funds are part of REACT-EU (Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe), a package of additional cohesion funds under which Poland has been allocated a total of over 1.5 billion euros.

“At the moment, [the letter] is being analysed in order to prepare an answer,” the Lubelskie region spokesman said in an email.

Lubelskie and Malopolska regions have both recently voted to remain free of “LGBT ideology”.

Gay rights is a deeply divisive issue in predominantly Catholic Poland.

Many religious conservatives see the fight for LGBT equality as an attack on traditional values. In 2019 numerous local authorities declared themselves free of “LGBT ideology”, seeking to ban what they see as the promotion of homosexuality and other minority sexual identities, especially in schools.

A European Commission spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the letter. The Polish Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Poland has also angered Brussels by asking its Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether its constitution takes primacy over EU law.

The primacy of EU law is a key tenet of European integration, and European Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said Poland’s questioning of this principle was holding up the acceptance of its spending plan for recovery funds.

(This report was first published by, and reproduced under creative licence from, Thomson Reuters Foundation. Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels, writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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