Parts of Poland that declared themselves LGBTQ-free zones in defiance of European Union diversity policies began reversing their stance after Brussels halted as much as 126 million euros ($148 million) of pandemic aid.
The eastern Swietokrzyskie region voted this week to revoke a 2019 declaration targeting LGBTQ “ideology.” The Malopolskie region, in the south, may follow suit Monday after amending a similar resolution, the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper reported.
Five of Poland’s 16 provinces defied the EU with either anti-LGBTQ declarations or resolutions singling out sexual minorities. The European Commission sent letters to the regions’ governors this month warning that funding will be withheld unless the measures are withdrawn.
Other regions may now cave as the EU tries to push back against discrimination in member states and could link disbursement of billions of euros in financing to human-rights standards.
“This matter will most definitely be resolved,” Konrad Szymanski, Poland’s minister for the EU, said Thursday. “Nobody has any interest in discriminating against anyone in Poland.”
Local governments will choose the best way “to clarify this matter,” he said.
The frozen funds are from the bloc’s React-EU program, launched after the coronavirus pandemic to aid recovery efforts. The country’s full allocation is more than 1.5 billion euros. Separately, Poland could receive as much as 121 billion euros in cohesion and other EU funds from the 2021-2027 budget.
The backdown from the regions comes with Poland struggling to win approval for its plan to spend 36 billion euros from the EU’s pandemic stimulus fund. The commission has raised concerns over attempts to question the primacy of the bloc’s laws. The government says it received no objections to its plan.
The EU is also mired in a separate standoff with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a key Polish ally, over his own anti-LGBTQ legislation. Both Orban and Poland’s de facto leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have played down talk of a more definitive break from the EU.
Like Hungary, Poland has for years squabbled with Brussels over changes to courts, LGBTQ rights and media freedoms. It’s also recently fallen out with the U.S. over efforts to close down an American-owned TV channel that’s critical of the government, though has shown signs of compromise there too this week.
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