- Title: Polish "LGBT-free" town weighs risks of losing EU funds
- Date: 17th July 2020
- Summary: KONSKOWOLA, POLAND (JULY 16, 2020) (REUTERS) ROSE FIELD ON THE APPROACH TO THE TOWN OF KONSKOWOLA CLOSE OF ROSE BUDS ROAD SIGN AT THE ENTRY TO KONSKOWOLA MAIN SQUARE AT KONSKOWOLA BILLBOARD WITH INFORMATION ABOUT EU FUNDS FOR THE TOWN ROSES BILLBOARD WITH INFORMATION WHAT EU FUNDS HAVE BEEN USED FOR ROSES WORKERS IN FRONT OF THE TOWN HALL ENTRANCE TO MUNICIPAL COUNCIL BUILDING SIGNS SAYING (Polish) "MUNICIPAL COUNCIL", "MUNICIPAL OFFICE", "REGISTRY OFFICE" RADOSLAW GABRIEL BARZENC, THE KONSKOWOLA COUNCIL HEAD IN HIS OFFICE (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) RADOSLAW GABRIEL BARZENC, THE KONSKOWOLA COUNCIL HEAD, SAYING" "I believe that if the restrictions are implemented it would be because people took a stand, they have an opinion. Isn't this discrimination because of someone's views? Taking action like this? Is this what European tolerance is about? I don't think so" ELECTION POSTERS WITH PRESIDENT ANDRZEJ DUDA AND CHALLENGER RAFAL TRZASKOWSKI CLOSE OF POSTERS KONSKOWOLA MAYOR STANISLAW GOLEBIOWSKI IN HIS OFFICE (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) KONSKOWOLA MAYOR STANISLAW GOLEBIOWSKI, SAYING: "After the letter we got back in June from the Human Rights ombudsman , I decided we need to go back and discuss this issue. The ombudsman was very outspoken and urged municipalities and local councils to think about it. Whether the position of our council changes, it is difficult to say, the councilors are independent from the mayor." CHURCH (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) URSZULA NOWAK, A 76-YEAR-OLD PENSIONER WHO HAS LIVED HER ENTIRE LIFE IN THE VILLAGE SAYING: "The EU would position itself as an opponent of our ideology, our beliefs. The majority of Poles are Christians. The European Union would be against our faith. I do not like it. What will happen? I do not know but I think that EU funds should not come as a quid pro quo, that we should do as we are told." CHURCH FACADE JOLANTA MAZURKIEWICZ, OWNER OF A LOCAL SHOP JOLANTA MAZURKIEWICZ SMELLING ROSES ROSES JOLANTA MAZURKIEWICZ ENTERING HER SHOP SHELF WITH ROSE JAM ROSE JAM (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) JOLANTA MAZURKIEWICZ, OWNER OF LOCAL SHOP, SAYING: "Surely the soil here, water shortages are felt everywhere. This year's rains have helped a bit, the plants get water but last year and the year before, the summer was very hot and dry, we really felt it, the rose petals did." ROWS OF ROSES ROSE PETALS ON THE GROUND ROSE FIELD DRY SOIL ROW OF ROSES ROSE FIELD ROSE REPORTER TALKING TO HONORATA SADURSKA, VETERINARIAN FROM KONSKOWOLA AND A LESBIAN (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) HONORATA SADURSKA, VETERINARIAN FROM KONSKOWOLA AND A LESBIAN, SAYING: "Yes, in my opinion ever since the anti-LGBT ideology declarations started the 'climate' in Poland started to change. It is difficult to say what came first, the chicken or the egg. Whether the declarations came because of certain views or the views came because of the declarations." REPORTER TALKING TO HONORATA SADURSKA, VETERINARIAN FROM KONSKOWOLA AND A LESBIAN (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) HONORATA SADURSKA, VETERINARIAN FROM KONSKOWOLA AND A LESBIAN, SAYING: "It's happened that someone has yelled something not nice to me, or pushed me on the bus."
- Embargoed: 31st July 2020 17:50
- Keywords: European Union funds LGBT-free zone Poland
- Location: WARSAW, KONSKOWOLA, TRZEBIESZOW, POLAND
- City: WARSAW, KONSKOWOLA, TRZEBIESZOW, POLAND
- Country: Poland
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA001CN765HJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Among fields of roses and lavender dotting the tranquil landscape around the village of Konskowola in eastern Poland, some residents feel the European Union may be blackmailing them.
Just like about a hundred other municipalities across rural Poland, the local council has declared Konskowola to be free of "LGBT ideology", a reflection of a rising backlash against gay rights throughout the conservative, largely Catholic nation.
This has raised eyebrows in Brussels, with the European Commission signalling to regional authorities including those responsible for Konskowola in May that disbursement of EU aid to areas that discriminate on the basis sexual orientation may be curbed.
Some local residents, such as Radoslaw Gabriel Barzenc, the Konskowola council head, are angry over what he sees as unjustified interference by Europe's liberal west in his town's beliefs.
"The restrictions could be implemented because people have an opinion. Isn't this discrimination? Is this what European tolerance is about? I don't think so," he told Reuters.
Gay rights have become a hot-button campaign issue in Poland since the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) came to power five years ago on platform to defend traditional family values.
In the run-up to a presidential election held last Sunday (July 12), the incumbent Andrzej Duda, allied with PiS, pledged to ensure gay couples would not be able to adopt children and to prevent education about gay rights in public schools.
He won a second five-year term with a narrow margin of 51% against a liberal challenger, amid mounting polarisation in Poland over the role religious values should play in public life.
PiS and Duda have long been at loggerheads with Europe over Warsaw's adherence to democratic norms, and the issue was back on the agenda at a summit of European Union leaders which started in Brussels on Friday to discuss the bloc's budget.
Some want to freeze payouts from a coronavirus recovery fund or the long-term budget for countries believed to be undercutting democratic values, such as Poland, although Hunagrian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a right-wing nationalist and a ally of Warsaw's conservative government, has threatened a veto.
A Polish rights organisation has also petioned the European anti-fraud office OLAF to investigate whether EU funds disbursed in Poland are not being misused by communities that call themselves "LGBT-free". OLAF declined to comment.
In Konskowola, which is part of Poland's eastern conservative heartland, some 70% of residents voted for Duda, a devout Catholic.
Konskowola authorities say their aim is not to discriminate against any individuals.
In its June 2019 declaration, the council said it opposed any public activity aimed at "promoting the ideology of the LGBT movement", and declared it would protect its school and its families from anything that would contradict Christian values.
But dissent in Konskowola, which has a population of just over 2,000, is brewing.
Mayor Stanislaw Golebiowski says the council should have never taken up the issue and should now reconsider it. He feels too much is at stake.
He hopes to use EU cash to fund some of his 7-9 million euro project to modernise irrigation systems, made more urgent in recent years due to dropping groundwater levels, for the town's prize rose fields and other flowers it grows.
Like thousands of towns and villages across Poland, which joined the EU in 2004 and has received some 36 million euros ($41 million) in aid since, Konskowola has spent the cash on projects to improve the standard of living in a nation ravaged by World War Two and four decades of communism.
Honorata Sadurska, 26, a veterinarian from Konskowola and a lesbian, says she believes homophobic reactions are on the rise.
"It's happened that I was pushed on the bus or that someone has yelled something not nice to me. Is it because of the council's declaration?," she told Reuters.
"I don't know what came first, the chicken or the egg."
(Production Aleksandra Szmigiel, Anna Dabrowska)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None