Poland criticized in EU Parliament over courts, LGBT rights

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By The Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's conservative government came under criticism Monday in the European Parliament, where some lawmakers called for it to lose European Union funding over its rule of law record and its discrimination against LGBT people.

The parliament was discussing a new report on fundamental rights in Poland prepared by Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, a Spanish lawmaker who heads the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

Aguilar told the lawmakers that Poland appears to be moving away from European fundamental values and called the situation “extremely concerning." The report will face a vote on Thursday.

Poland has repeatedly been scrutinized in the EU parliament since the conservative nationalist Law and Justice took power in 2015. Of greatest concern has been a new body of judicial legislation that has given the ruling party vast new powers over Poland's court system.

In recent months, LGBT rights have been a new focus after Polish politicians have been depicting the movement for greater rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people as a dangerous “ideology” threatening the largely Catholic nation's traditional identity.

President Andrzej Duda won re-election in July after a campaign in which he called the LGBT movement an “ideology” more dangerous than communism.

Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, has echoed that rhetoric in recent days, saying it was “a threat to the very foundations of our civilization" in an interview in the right-wing magazine W Sieci.

Many Polish municipalities since last year have also declared themselves to be “LGBT free," a largely symbolic move but one that has left LGBT people feeling unwanted and stigmatized. LGBT rights groups say they have also recorded a rising number of hate crimes against sexual minorities.

“We see Poland crossing red line after red line,” said Sophia in ’t Veld, a Dutch member of Parliament. She called on EU eaders to take much firmer steps to punish the governments of both Poland and Hungary, which under Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also been accused by the EU of eroding democratic norms.

“I don’t want to hear the word dialogue anymore. We’ve been in dialogue with Mr. Orban for 10 years. And look at where we are now. It is impunity. Dialogue equals impunity,” she said.

Patryk Jaki, a Polish lawmaker from the Law and Justice party, accused the European lawmakers of treating any policies that are not left-wing as an attack on rule of law.

He got support from Maximilian Krah, from Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany party, who said he also saw the criticism voiced Monday as one of the “usual attacks on conservative politics.”