WARSAW — Polish regions are scrambling over themselves to junk resolutions denouncing what they called “LGBT propaganda” after facing the threat of losing billions in EU funding.
Four regional assemblies have already dropped this resolutions in the last few days and a fifth — Łódzkie in central Poland — was debating the issue on Tuesday.
The resolutions were adopted in 2019 and 2020 by regional governments controlled by Poland’s ruling nationalist coalition, led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party. It was part of a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment created by the ruling party in an effort to boost its support in parliamentary and presidential elections.
In the resolution adopted in the eastern region of Lubelskie, for example, the regional government talked about “LGBT ideology” and “homopropaganda,” juxtaposed against “Christian values.”
But those resolutions — aimed to be largely symbolic — turned out to have a very real cost. The European Commission made it clear that the five regions would lose out on billions of euros from its regional funding programs. Since Poland joined the EU in 2004, Polish regions have benefited massively from the bloc’s system of cohesion funding, which has financed new infrastructure, better environmental protection and new cultural initiatives, or helped Poland’s burgeoning tech startup scene.
In August, the Commission launched an infringement procedure against Poland, saying Warsaw failed to appropriately respond to the EU’s inquiry regarding so-called “LGBT-ideology free zones.”
“The Commission is concerned that these declarations may violate EU law regarding non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation,” the Commission said.
After months of grumbling about unseemly pressure from Brussels, the prospect of losing EU cash concentrated minds in regional assemblies.
“We can see that pressure makes sense,” said Michał Krawczyk, an MP with the opposition Civic Platform party, after the Lubelskie regional parliament changed the resolution on Monday; he said it stood to lose about 10 billion złoty (€2.2 billion) in EU funds.
Marcin Warchoł, an MP with the right-wing United Poland party, called it a “sad day” after the Podkarpacie region in eastern Poland voted to drop its resolution, which he blamed on “blackmail from European Commission bureaucrats.”
Instead of its LGBT resolution, the assembly declared that it was a region of “established tolerance.”
The retreat is backed by PiS, which fears a public backlash for losing EU money at a time when it’s eyeing a snap election. But its smaller and more right-wing coalition partner, United Poland, is strongly denouncing the change in position.
“We appeal … to regional councils not to succumb to blackmail. If someone is counting on the EU to stop, they’re wrong. We can expect more unlawful actions if we succumb to this kind of economic terrorism,” Justice Minister and United Poland leader Zbigniew Ziobro said at a news conference last week.
Now that most of the resolutions are gone, “the question remains if that will be enough” for the European Commission, Krawczyk told the Rzeczpospolita newspaper.