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The rejected applications concerned financing projects within the EU twinning project framework, i.e. the efforts to facilitate exchange and strengthen institutional cooperation between EU partner cities. The programme allowed two sister-cities to apply for grants of up to EUR 25.000, provided that their joint project will last 21 days. Cities included in the twinning network can seek to obtain as much as EUR 150.000.

Today, the European Commission announced a list of beneficiaries who will receive the funds. Among the 147 municipalities and organizations listed, only eight are Polish. Funding recipients include Września (EUR 5.000), Sopot (EUR 7.500), Opole (EUR 12.000), Zator (EUR 10.000), Dzierzkowice (EUR 7.500) and a few others.

Polish municipalities asked for funding for programs facilitating equality and integration. The EU Commissioner’s statement suggests that even more local governments in Poland could’ve benefitted from the subsidies. They didn’t, because this year or last, they declared themselves as “LGBT-free zones”.  The European Commission hasn’t revealed yet which municipalities will be excluded. In her Tweet, Dalli mentioned six cities. – EU values and fundamental right must be respected by Member States and state authorities- she wrote.

A third of Poland declares itself “LGBT free”

Supported by local politicians associated with the ruling Law and Justice party, 18 Polish counties and 16 municipalities passed resolutions denouncing “LGBT ideology” and declared themselves “LGBT-free zones”. In total, the zones cover a third of the country.  The resolutions have no legal force, but they are a clear effort to stigmatize and discriminate non-heteronormative groups. In some cases, the Polish Ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, was successful in convincing the Provincial Administrative Courts to rule against them.

While the rest of Europe was still shocked by Andrzej Duda’s homophobic tirades at his presidential rallies (he said that „LGBT is not people, but an ideology”) in June, the EU Commissioner Dalli warned that because of the attacks on sexual minorities, Poland could lose some of its EU funding.  

-Employment law is another important issue. What will happen to me if I’m LGBTI and work in a shop that is in one of these so-called “LGBT-free zones”? It would be an infringement on my rights as worker. We’re putting all of this together and analysing the situation, because this is inacceptable – Dalli said a month ago in one of the interviews.

In June, European Commission Directors-General for urban policy and employment, Marc Lemaître and Joost Korte, have sent a letter addressed to local Polish authorities. They warned that no one should be discriminated when deciding where to allocate the funds, and that EU funds cannot be used for projects promoting discrimination. The letter was interpreted as an announcement of the Commission’s upcoming action against municipalities which have adopted the discriminatory resolution.

Will there be further consequences?

During the last European Council summit, EU heads of state and government – including Prime Minsiter Mateusz Morawiecki- agreed on a provision which would allow the Commission to limit the access to EU budged if a member state goes against the rule of law or pursues policies which undermine the fundamental EU values specified in article 2 of the EU treaty. The provision explicitly prohibits discriminating against minority groups. Thus, it can be concluded that the Polish “LBGT-free zones” violate EU law.

After returning from Brussels, Prime Minister Morawiecki was trying to convince us that because of Poland’s alleged veto power, it will not be affected by any budget cuts and other unfavourable decisions. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, denied Prime Minister’s interpretations- the criteria are very clear- he said.

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