The European Commission has defended its decision to reject town twinning grant applications from six Polish cities after they declared themselves "LGBTI-free" zones.”
Applications for twinning funding were turned down after the local governors had declared their regions to be "LGBTI-free" zones.
The rejected applications related to financing projects under the EU twinning scheme, an initiative designed to facilitate exchange and strengthen institutional cooperation between EU partner cities.
Defending the decision to reject the Polish applications, European commissioner for equality Helena Dalli said EU values and rights “must be respected.”
She had earlier warned that Poland might lose some EU funding because of attacks on sexual minorities.
“We are deeply worried about the situation of fundamental rights, particularly regarding media freedom and the protection of minorities” S&D Group MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar
The Commission has declined to name the municipalities but, in a tweet, Dalli mentioned six cities thought to be in the south of the country.
It is believed that a total of 18 Polish counties and 16 municipalities have passed resolutions denouncing “LGBT ideology” and declared themselves “LGBT-free zones”. These zones cover a third of Poland.
Speaking to reporters, a Commission spokesman confirmed the applications had been refused, saying, “This is because of the rules that guide the selection process.”
The furore over the twinning applications is the latest in a series of recent spats between Poland and the EU.
Poland was recently castigated after it announced its plan to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, a human rights Treaty protecting women against violence and domestic abuse.
The Europe-wide Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) party said the proposal was “part of a systematic and coordinated effort led by authoritarian regimes to roll back the hard-won advances in women’s rights.”
It warned that the decision would increase violence and domestic abuse against women in Poland.
Separately, MEPs earlier this month said there was “overwhelming evidence” of rule of law breaches in Poland and called on the Commission to closely monitor the situation.
They overwhelmingly voted in favour of a report criticising the “continuing deterioration” of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Poland.
S&D Group MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the rule of law in Poland and chair of the Civil Liberties Justice and Home Affairs Committee, said, “We are deeply worried about the situation of fundamental rights, particularly regarding media freedom and the protection of minorities.”
Aguilar added, “During the recent presidential campaign in Poland, public media bias was particularly visible on these issues, favouring the incumbent president, with the LGBTI community presented as a new enemy, whose human dignity was even questioned by President Andrzej Duda.”
Concerns were also voiced by Małgorzata Tracz, co-leader of the Polish Greens party, who said, “We are currently extremely worried for the LGBTI community which has been under attack all over Poland in large part because of the actions of the PiS party.”
She added, “It is equally worrying that the current ruling party shows no sign of interest in developing any form of relevant and meaningful climate and energy policy.”