Polish council votes to remain ‘LGBT free’ despite EU funding threat

Regional assembly defies warning from Brussels billions in funding could be cut

<p>The EU has criticised Polish municipalities for declaring themselves LGBT-free zones</p>

The EU has criticised Polish municipalities for declaring themselves LGBT-free zones

A Polish regional council has voted to re-affirm its status as an “LGBT-free zone” despite the EU threatening to remove billions of euros in funding.

The council of Malopolska – a southern region of Poland which includes the country’s second city Krakow and 3.4 million citizens – passed a resolution in 2019 which declared itself an “LGBT-free” region.

This prompted a rebuke by the European Commission, which sent a letter to the council demanding it revoked the resolution by the middle of September. If it did not, it could lose the more than €2.5bn (about £2.1bn) in funding it receives from the EU.

However, on Thursday the regional assembly defied Brussels by voting down an opposition motion which would have expunged the 2019 anti-LGBT resolution.

Gay rights have become a high-profile and deeply divisive issue in Polish politics in recent years.

The Law and Justice Party (PiS) national government has steered the predominantly Catholic country in an authoritarian and nationalist direction, claiming it seeks to defend Poland from supposedly Western LGBT ideology.

Many local councils, including Malopolska which is also governed by PiS, have passed resolutions affirming their rejection of this supposed LGBT ideology.

Conservatives argue these do not attack individual gay people but simply defend traditional Christian teaching and forbid the promotion of homosexuality and other minority sexual identities, particularly in schools.

By April last year, about 100 municipalities encompassing a third of Poland, had declared themselves “LGBT-free zones”, cheered on by national PiS politicians in Warsaw.

Jan Duda, the leader of the Malopolska council and father of Poland’s president Andrzej Duda, defended maintaining the 2019 resolution in the fact of threats from Brussels, but also insisted it had been misinterpreted.

"We cannot simply deny what was said in 2019. We need to meet and rewrite this declaration, as the one from 2019 has been misunderstood.”

The national government has praised the defiance by Malopolska, with cabinet minister Michal Wojcik hailing the decision as a victory for “democracy and self-governance”.

But others criticised the council, including Poland’s most high profile gay politician Robert Biedron, who co-leads the largest left-wing party in the country and is a member of the European Parliament.

“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,” he said.

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