Poland defies ‘barbarian’ EU after letter sent warning region it risked losing funds

EU: Expert on fears of Poland being 'marginalised'

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A Polish regional council voted on Thursday to remain an “LGBT-free zone” despite a warning from the European Union that it could lose funding, but its head said the declaration of the zone had been misunderstood and could be rewritten.

Numerous local authorities in Poland have declared themselves free of “LGBT ideology” as gay rights have become a high-profile and deeply divisive issue in the predominantly Catholic country under conservative nationalist rule.

This has set Poland on a collision course with the European Commission, which says the zones may violate EU law regarding non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

The southern Malopolska region said it had received a warning letter saying it could lose more than 2.5 billion euros of EU funds unless it revokes the declaration made in 2019 by mid-September.

On Thursday its regional assembly voted on an opposition motion to revoke the resolution.

It was rejected due to the votes of ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party representatives.

“We cannot simply deny what was said in 2019,” said council leader Jan Duda, who is the father of Poland’s President Andrzej Duda.

“We need to meet and rewrite this declaration, as the one from 2019 has been misunderstood.”

He added: “Some barbarians want to strip us of the funds that are crucial for our families to live well.

“This is money that we deserve, it’s not some kind of charity.”

Some religious conservatives in Poland say they do not have anything against gay people but oppose what they call “LGBT ideology”, which they say poses a threat to Christian values.

Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski said in his Sunday ceremony: “Freedom has its price. This price includes honour.

“Freedom can’t be bought with money.”

Tomasz Urynowicz, deputy speaker of the Małopolskie region’s parliament who quit PiS over Thursday’s vote, said in a statement on Facebook: “The Commission isn’t joking.

“There is concrete information that says that the European Commission has plans to reach for a very dangerous tool which is blocking negotiations on the new EU budget, blocking the current budget, and blocking EU funds for promoting the region.”

LGBT-free zones seek to ban the promotion of homosexuality and other minority sexual identities, especially in schools.

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“Once again, the hatred and anger of PiS turned out to be more important than the good of citizens, and they will suffer the most from this decision,” said Robert Biedron, a left-wing member of the European Parliament and Poland’s most high-profile openly gay politician.

Poland’s government denies having laws that discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.

Responding, cabinet minister Michal Wojcik said: “Democracy and self-governance are winning.”

Relations between Brussels and Poland have been strained in recent years, epitomised by a recent row over the judiciary in Warsaw.

The country’s Government told the EU it will shut down a chamber at its supreme court devoted to disciplining judges, backing down to the European Commission’s demands after a lengthy row.

The EU and Poland have been at odds for years because the ruling party in Warsaw has been accused of compromising the independence of its legal systems.

Manfred Weber, the influential German MEP, tweeted last month that Poland is on course to leave the bloc.

He said: “Very concerned by the ruling of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal.

“This should serve as a warning to all Poles who are truly pro-European and want a European future for their children and grandchildren: your government is clearly on the path to Polexit.”

President Andrzej Duda has used harsh terms to describe the EU, branding it an “imaginary community of little consequence for us”.

In November last year, opposition MP Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska warned: “It’s time to sound the alarm.

“What happened in the UK is starting here. We need to stop it.”

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