Poland’s justice ministry has handed over a cheque to one of the districts that lost out on European Union funding due to adopting a resolution declaring itself “free from LGBT ideology”. The amount is three times as much as it was supposed to receive from the EU.
During the ceremony, the justice minister promised that he would always stand up for Polish districts “harassed by the European Commission for ideological reasons”. He called for the creation by the government of a “permanent support mechanism” for such places.
KONFERENCJA PRASOWA – WSPARCIE DLA GMIN POMINIĘTYCH W UNIJNYM PROGRAMIE „PARTNERSTWO MIAST" https://t.co/KMscAlovfh
— Min. Sprawiedliwości (@MS_GOV_PL) August 18, 2020
Since early last year, a large number of local authorities in Poland – usually led by the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party – have passed anti-LGBT resolutions, often declaring themselves to be “free from LGBT ideology“.
The EU authorities have condemned the resolutions as a violation of European values and possibly European law. Last year, the European Parliament urged the Commission to ensure that EU funds are not “being used for discriminatory purposes”.
In June, the Commission asked local authorities in the relevant regions to explain their resolutions. Then, last month, it declared that applications for funding from six such Polish municipalities had been rejected because they failed to “respect EU values and fundamental rights”.
One of those districts was Tuchów, near the city of Tarnów in southern Poland. It lost out on a potential €18,000 (79,000 zloty) from the EU’s town twinning programme.
Now, however, the justice ministry has granted triple that amount, 250,000 zloty (€57,000), to Tuchów. The symbolic cheque was received at a ceremony today by local councillor Mateusz Janiczek of PIS, who was the initiator of Tuchów’s anti-LGBT resolution.
“This district became the subject of…ideological persecution by Commissioner Helena Dalli,” said Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, referring to the European Commissioner for Equality, who announced last month that the six Polish districts had lost out on funding.
Ziobro claimed that Tuchów and other districts “did not discriminate, but just emphasised the values contained in the constitution” and “had the courage to stand up for the protection of the family”, reports Polsat News. He argued that, in fact, the Commission was discriminating against them on the basis of their views.
Janiczek likewise claimed that “by adopting this resolution, we did not want to discriminate against anyone or introduce LGBT-free zones”. They simply wanted to protect “Polish tradition, culture and Christian values”.
Tuchów’s resolution declares the district “free from LGBT+ ideology” and promises to “defend” it against “radicals striving for a cultural revolution in Poland”, including through the “sexualisation of children”.
A number of similar resolutions passed by other local authorities have recently been overturned by courts in Poland. One judge found that they violate the constitution, which bans discrimination and requires equal treatment.
The 250,000 zloty granted to Tuchów by the justice ministry comes from a special fund meant to be used to support victims of crime. Ziobro promised that he would seek to help every other Polish district “harassed in this way by the European Commission for ideological reasons”.
However, he also appealed to the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, to “establish a permanent support mechanism” for such districts.
In February, the French commune of Saint-Jean-de-Braye announced that it had suspended its partnership with Tuchów, which had been in place for 20 years, due to the Polish district’s “homophobic” resolution, which is “contrary to human rights”.
Last month, after Tuchów learnt that it was losing out on EU funding, the district’s mayor, who was elected as a non-party candidate, appealed to local councillors to “review their decision” over passing the resolution, reports Gazeta.pl.
In a separate interview published this morning, Ziobro told Rzeczpospolita that a “cultural war for our Polish soul” is underway. He warned that the government must avoid the “lukewarm” response of conservative parties in western Europe, and instead “fight to defend our Christian identity”.
Following the recent detention of dozens of LGBT activists, which has resulted in international criticism, Ziobro said that the “Polish authorities do not persecute LGBT people”, who “are safe and have all civil liberties guaranteed”.
“I am not interested in what sexual orientation someone has, because these are private matters,” he claimed. “The problem is aggressive…and offensive actions by these groups, which want to impose their ideology.”
Main image credit: Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości/Facebook
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland and assistant professor of history at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, The Independent and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.