The European Commission has suspended talks with a Polish region on the disbursement of European Union funds until the local authorities address Brussels’ concerns over an anti-LGBT declaration that they adopted.
In 2019, Małopolska Province – located in southern Poland and with Kraków as its capital – became one of many Polish local authorities to pass a resolution declaring “opposition to the introduction of LGBT ideology”. It was approved by the provincial parliament, where the nationally ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has a majority.
Last month, the European Commission reportedly informed the province that, unless the resolution is withdrawn, it would lose EU funds in coming years. These could amount to €2.5 billion (11.4 billion zloty), reports Gazeta Wyborcza.
“The EU sees no justification for further investment in promotion of cultural heritage and tourism…since the local authorities are themselves contributing to creating an unfriendly image of Małopolska,” read part of a letter from the commission to the province obtained by the newspaper.
Today, the deputy marshal of Małopolska, Tomasz Urynowicz, announced that they had just been informed by the commission that, until the province provides a response to last month’s letter, talks on so-called REACT-EU funds have also been suspended.
The REACT-EU package, adopted by the EU in December, offers tens of billions of euros of funds to help with recovery from the pandemic. It provides investment in health services as well as in projects to protect jobs and support businesses.
Urynowicz, who initially voted in favour of the anti-LGBT resolution, is now seeking to have it overturned. He hails from Agreement (Porozumienie), the most moderate party in Poland’s ruling coalition until this week (when it left government). So far his efforts to withdraw the declaration have failed.
The other two parties in the coalition – the national-conservative PiS and hard-right United Poland (Solidarna Polska) – have strongly supported the anti-LGBT resolutions passed by various local authorities.
Last year, after one town lost EU funds due its anti-LGBT stance, United Poland’s leader, justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro, granted it funds from his ministry to compensate.
Some areas have, however, been having second thoughts about their resolutions due to the threat of losing both EU funds as well as grants from Norway, which is a major donor to civil society projects in Poland.
Last year, the Norwegian foreign minister announced that local authorities that have passed anti-LGBT resolutions will not receive money from the so-called Norway Grants, as well as the related EEA Grants, to which Norway is the main contributor.
Earlier this year, councillors in the town of Kraśnik voted to withdraw their anti-LGBT resolution due to the danger of losing millions in Norwegian funds. Previously, another town, Nowa Dęba, had done the same.
Politicians from centrist and left-wing opposition parties have also opposed the anti-LGBT resolutions. In Małopolska, the mayors of three cities – Kraków, Tarnów and Oświęcim – have appealed to the provincial authorities to withdraw their resolution, reports TVN24.
Kraków’s mayor, Jacek Majchrowski, last year declared his support for the LGBT community, saying that they are “not an ideology [but] people who deserve respect and safety”. His city this year launched a programme of assistance for LGBT youth.
Earlier this week, an opposition MP, Iza Leszczyna, revealed that, according to information provided by the government, four other provinces (Łódź, Świętokrzyskie, Lublin and Podkarpackie) are, like Małpolska, at risk of losing EU funds over their anti-LGBT resolutions.
In 2019, around 100 local authorities in Poland passed anti-LGBT resolutions. Though such places are often referred to by critics as “LGBT-free zones”, none of the resolutions specifically uses such language.
Around half express opposition to “LGBT ideology” – a term used by PiS to refer to what it claims is a dangerous set of ideas being imported into Poland, threatening Polish families, culture and even the nation itself.
Others are so-called “Charters of Family Rights” that do not mention LGBT specifically but reject same-sex marriage and call for the “protection of children from moral corruption”, language often used to suggest that the LGBT movement is a danger to Polish youth.