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Poland to give money to 'LGBT free' towns denied EU funding

Police escort LGBT activists and their supporters during the first-ever pride parade in the central city of Plock, Poland, on Saturday Aug. 10, 2019.
Police escort LGBT activists and their supporters during the first-ever pride parade in the central city of Plock, Poland, on Saturday Aug. 10, 2019.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski
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Poland's government announced on Tuesday that towns whose applications for European Union funding were denied because they've declared themselves "LGBT free" would receive money from the state instead.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, the leader of the right-wing, Catholic-nationalist United Poland party, handed over a symbolic cheque of 250,000 zloty (€57,000) to the mayor of Tuchow at a ceremony on Tuesday.

Tuchow, located some 100 km east of Krakow, was one of six cities in Poland whose applications for EU grants were rejected last month because of their attitude to the LGBTQ community. The bloc's Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli stressed then that "EU values and fundamental rights must be respected by member states and public authorities".

The money Tuchow will receive from the government is thee times the amount it had applied for under the EU twinning programme, Ziobro said.

He also doubled down on his accusation that Brussels is discriminating against Polish local governments and that last month's decision was "lawless and ideologically motivated".

He praised local authorities of so-called "LGBT free" municipalities for safeguarding traditional family values which he said were "the best guarantors of crime and violence prevention".

He said the grant rejections were "a foretaste" of what the Commission would do to Poland in the event Brussels imposed an "unlawful mechanism" to link access to EU funds to respect for the rule of law.

Last year, some 80 municipalities across Poland declared themselves "free of LGBT ideology", supported by local politicians associated with the ruling Conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

President Andrzej Duda, an independent closely aligned with PiS who was narrowly re-elected last month, said during that campaign that LGBT activism is an "ideology" more "destructive than communism".