The EU takes Poland to court. It doesn’t matter when you, the reader, read this. It is a headline that is no longer news and that ranges from mining, to the rule of law to the telecommunications law. One of the most relevant dossiers has to do with the Turow mines, which Poland refuses to close despite the ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU, which last May ordered the precautionary cessation of lignite exploitation activity while it resolved the complaint filed by the Czech Republic. Given the Polish rebellion, the European Justice has imposed a daily fine of 500,000 euros on Poland until the mine closes. However, Brussels’ roadmap of linking the granting of European funds to respect for fundamental rights, which Warsaw has systematically imposed, is beginning to bear fruit.
Several Polish provinces, which had declared themselves a zone free of ‘LGBT ideology’, have reversed their declaration adopted in 2019 due to the threat of losing their share of React-EU funds (Recovery aid for cohesion and the territories of Europe ), a package of additional cohesion funds under which Poland has received a total of more than €1.5 billion. Together, the regions represent almost a quarter of Poland’s population and land area. At the moment, as a result, only one of the five provinces threatened with losing EU funds, Łódź, has maintained its resolution, reports the English-speaking portal Notes From Poland.
Last July, the European Commission launched a legal challenge against Poland over the rights of the LGBT community and last month it froze funding to the five Polish regions. The Polish Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro, had called these pressures from Brussels “economic terrorism” urging regional governments not to give in “to EU blackmail.”
«Without the EU, Poland would be like Belarus today»
The first to back down, Swietokrzyskie, a province of 1.2 million people in southeastern Poland, changed its resolution to another in which it promoted “respect for Poland’s centuries-old tradition and culture” in relation to “equality and fair treatment”.
“I am bisexual. I live in a country where they hate me and don’t love me for who I am. This feeling is horrible, there are people who don’t want me here just because of my sexual condition,” environmental activist and student Paulina Pietrzykowska (19 years old) told Europa Hoy, highlighting how after each march in favor of gay rights, recommends on social networks not to return home alone.
Like her, thousands of young Poles long to go to study outside the country, not so much for their future jobs but for their personal situation.
Even so, both Paulina and her partner Kasia breathe a sigh of relief because their country is part of the European Union. “The EU is very important to us because of the idea that although Poland has its borders, it is part of a larger project,” says Paulina. Kasia is more direct: «If we were not in the EU, Poland would follow in the footsteps of its neighbors around Russia: Belarus and Ukraine. “We would be much further behind.”
Since the beginning of 2019, in Poland there have been more than 80 cases in which regions, counties or municipalities have passed resolutions declaring themselves free from the so-called ‘LGBT ideology’, or have adopted ‘Regional Charters of Family Rights’ or discriminatory provisions for single-parent and LGBTI families.
What is at stake in the conflict is money from EU funds. This is happening at a time when the European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling for the acceptance of same-sex couples and marriage across the European Union.
In another declaration on September 14, this one on the rights of LGBTI people in the EU (adopted with 387 votes in favor, 161 against and 123 abstentions), the European Parliament defended that Europeans must be able to fully exercise their rights, including the right to free movement in all parts of the Union. The resolution establishes that marriages or registered partnerships formed in a member state must be recognized in all of them uniformly, and same-sex spouses and partners must receive the same treatment as those of the opposite sex.
Brussels is preparing to take the first steps to implement its new rule of law conditionality mechanism starting this month, and to defend the EU values set out in Article 2 of the EU Treaty, according to reports the FT.
Linking respect for the rule of law with the distribution of funds has been the centerpiece of the EU’s east-west disagreements for more than a year. As Polish MEP Lukasz Kohut commented to this newspaper, in the summer of 2020, in the negotiations between the heads of state regarding recovery funds, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki put the conditionality clause before any other issue that affected the country.
Last July, the plenary session of the European Parliament asked the Commission to quickly investigate any possible infringement of the principles of the rule of law “that seriously affected or could seriously affect the good financial management of the Union budget”, pointing out that “the situation In some Member States it already justified immediate action. According to the resolution, the budget conditionality regulation does not require any additional clarification to be applied and violations of the rule of law must be addressed without delay. October is the date set for the Commission to report on the first cases.
Existing instruments, especially the Article 7 procedure to protect EU values, have proven ineffective mainly due to the unanimity rule in the council that allows both Hungary and Poland to protect each other.
In the background, as reported by the specialized portal Politico, the European Commission can approve Poland’s recovery plan in November if Warsaw accepts certain legally binding objectives to restore its rule of law. The executive arm of the EU has been delaying approval of the Polish project for months, which would mean access to 57 billion euros in loans and subsidies.