"LGBTQI-free zones are humanity-free zones. And they have no place in our Union"
Poland blasts von der Leyen, EU Parliament over rights criticism
Warsaw under fire again over rule of law and LGBTQ rights.
Poland lashed out at European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the European Parliament on Thursday over fresh criticism of Warsaw's record on LGBTQ rights and the rule of law.
Earlier in the day, the European Parliament endorsed a highly critical report on the state of the rule of law and democracy in Poland, which has been ruled by the conservative Law and Justice Party since 2015.
The vote came the day after von der Leyen condemned decisions by dozens of Polish communities to declare themselves "LGBT-free zones." Although she did not mention Poland by name, von der Leyen declared in her first State of the Union address: "LGBTQI-free zones are humanity-free zones. And they have no place in our Union."
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro accused von der Leyen, Commission Vice President Věra Jourová — who oversees rule-of-law issues — and the European Parliament of "wanting to violate Polish democracy, through taking huge amounts of EU funds away from us, to blackmail us to force us to introduce changes in our social, cultural and educational lives."
"It’s an assault on democracy by the European elites," he told a press conference in Warsaw.
The Parliament's report said the mental health and physical safety of LGBTI people was "particularly at risk due to the government’s continued attacks on activists and organizations through raids, defunding and intimidation."
The Commission and Parliament have pushed to link payouts of EU funds to respect for the rule of law but EU leaders fudged the issue at a July summit and the fate of the proposed measure is uncertain.
The European Parliament voted by 513 votes to 148 to adopt its report, which was approved by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee in July. Thirty-three MEPs abstained.
The report says the rule of law situation in Poland "has not only not been addressed but has seriously deteriorated" since the Commission triggered the Article 7 censure procedure in December 2017 over reforms widely seen as undermining judicial independence.
The Parliament's report, drafted by civil liberties committee chair Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish Socialist, also addressed LGBTI rights. It said the mental health and physical safety of LGBTI people was "particularly at risk due to the government’s continued attacks on activists and organizations through raids, defunding and intimidation."
The resolution calls on EU governments to "finally act" on the Article 7 procedure, which would move Warsaw closer to potential sanctions — although such an outcome is unlikely. Getting to that stage would require the support of all other EU members and Hungary has declared it would not back sanctions against Warsaw.
The text also calls the EU to widen the scope of Article 7 proceedings, which are at present restricted to the rule of law, to include "other basic values of the Union, especially democracy and respect for human rights."