‘LGBT-free’ municipalities will not receive millions of zlotys from Norwegian funds
Municipalities that declared themselves ‘LGBT ideology-free zones’ will not receive funding from Norwegian funds. This means a loss of €3–10 million for Kraśnik alone.
The text was posted in Polish at OKO.press on 19 September
by Daniel Flis
‘Kraśnik and municipalities with similar declarations have not received project support in the current financing period and will not receive such support as long as these declarations remain valid. This also applies to all institutions under the control of the municipal authorities,’ said Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Soreide, referring to the Polish ‘LGBT ideology-free zones’.
Her position was posted on the Norwegian parliament’s website on 14 September. This was the response to a question from MP and former minister, Anniken Huitfeldt, about the award of funds to municipalities which have passed resolutions on ‘LGBT-free zones’.
These are funds from the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism (EEA Funds), the so-called Norwegian funds. They comprise funds that Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland transfer to EU countries as non-refundable financing in the form of development aid in return for their participation in the common EU area. Poland is their largest beneficiary.
‘Such declarations are inconsistent with the values on which European cooperation is based. There are also premises for stating that they breach the European Convention on Human Rights. LGBT people are entitled to the same protection against breaches of their personal rights and freedoms as all other citizens of Europe,’ explained the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
105 LGBT ideology-free local authorities
Świdnik’s councillors (Lublin Voivodship) established the first ‘LGBT-free’ zone in March 2019.
Since then, 105 local authorities have passed similar resolutions. Among them are municipalities, counties and five voivodships: Lubelskie, Łódzkie, Małopolskie, Podkarpackie and Świętokrzyskie.
Some of them are in the form of extremely homophobic resolutions ‘against the LGBT ideology’, while others are in the form of the ‘Local Government Charter of the Rights of the Family’ prepared by lawyers from Ordo Iuris.
Local authorities that have passed or rejected homophobic resolutions can be seen on the ‘Atlas of Hate’, a map prepared by activists Kuba Gawron, Paulina Pająk, and Paweł Parenta. The activists were nominated for the Sacharov Prize, which is awarded by the European Parliament for outstanding work in support of human rights.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that grants to municipalities that have not declared themselves ‘LGBT-free’, which are located in counties or voivodships that have passed such resolutions will not be suspended. Non-governmental organizations operating within their territory can also rest easy.
Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide announced that Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein will soon inform the Polish authorities in detail about how they should interpret the regulations on their allocation.
For Kraśnik, which is mentioned directly in the statement of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the withdrawal of Norwegian funds could mean a loss of several million zlotys. The town in the Lubelskie Voivodship with a population of 30,000 qualified for the second stage of the Local Development Programme financed by Norwegian and EEA funds.
‘Kraśnik has a good chance of obtaining €3–10 million. The inhabitants, non-governmental organizations, officials, and experts from the Association of Polish Cities have put a great deal of effort into our project. We have been preparing to apply for a year. Towns such as Kraśnik are struggling with a number of environmental, economic and social problems,’ Daniel Niedzialka, the press officer of Kraśnik’s mayor told the Lublin edition of ‘Wyborcza’.
Kraśnik’s councillors will vote on whether to repeal the resolution on the ‘LGBT free zone’ on Tuesday, 22 September. The initiator of this draft resolution is Paweł Kurek, a Nowoczesna councillor. He previously abstained, when the council voted on the homophobic resolution.
The town council will also vote on a resolution to adopt the Local Government Charter of the Rights of the Family on the same day on the initiative of, among others, the PiS councillors. The charter, which was prepared, among others, by Ordo Iuris, speaks of: ‘The protection of the family, marriage as a union of a woman and a man, parenthood and motherhood, the right to protect family life, the right of parents to raise their children in accordance with their own convictions and the child’s right to be protected against demoralization.’
Sanctions of the European Commission and twinned towns
The French town of Nogent-sur-Oise suspended its cooperation with Kraśnik as its response to Kraśnik’s declaration of being an LGBT-free zone. Its mayor announced this the day after OKO.press reported it to 52 foreign partners of 13 Polish homophobic local authorities.
The European Commission sent a letter in June to the marshals of the five voivodships that had passed anti-LGBT resolutions. In that letter, it instructed the marshals to check whether the local authorities which are beneficiaries of EU funds are discriminating against the LGBT community in their activities.
On Wednesday, while addressing the European Parliament on the State of the Union, Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, once again strongly addressed the issue, saying: ‘I will not rest when it comes to building a Union of equality. A Union where you can be who you are and love who you want – without fear of recrimination or discrimination. Because being yourself is not your ideology, It’s your identity. And no one can ever take it away. So I want to be crystal clear – LGBTQI–free zones are humanity free zones. And they have no place in our Union.’
The EC’s warnings have brought no result. None of the local authorities has repealed the homophobic resolution to this day. However, four of them were overruled by the administrative courts, which held that, contrary to the constitution, they exclude LGBT people from the community of residents. Complaints were filed by the Ombudsman and the Campaign Against Homophobia.
These are not the first restrictions imposed by the Norwegian government on the award of EEA funds to Poland. In February 2020, Norway withdrew from transferring 700 million krones (approximately PLN 292 million) to the justice administration programme. ‘This is a clear signal to the Polish authorities that the Norwegian Government is concerned about developments regarding the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Poland,’ explained Audun Halvorsen, Secretary of State of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz