Podkarpackie, Lubelskie and Malopolskie have repealed declarations to actively oppose LGBTQ+ equality after the European Commission threatened to axe funding, making them the latest regions in Poland to remove their ‘LGBTQ+ free zone’ status. According to the BBC, the European Commission was planning to withdraw €126m ($147m) in funding for local Polish governments that did not amend their legislation so as to make it LGBTQ+ inclusive.
As a result, a handful of LGBTQ+ free zones have altered their regulations, including Swietokrzyskie, which amended its anti-LGBTQ+ status last week. LGBTQ+ activist Bart Staszewski, who is best known for protesting against the LGBTQ+ free zones, told the BBC that more action is needed to tackle inequality and discrimination in Poland: “Politicians are playing with us. I mean they don’t want to revoke the whole resolution, they just want to replace it with another one.”
It is estimated that there are around 100 LGBTQ+ free zones in Poland. Following the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hostility, the EU launched the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy in November 2020. This action plan aims to oppose right-wing regimes of prejudice against queer people after 43% of LGBTQ+ people reported being discriminated against in the last year. Explaining the strategy, EU commission vice-president Vera Jourova said: “We will defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people against those who now have more and more appetite to attack them from this ideological point of view…This belongs to the authoritarian playbook and it does not have a place in the EU.”