Activists have expressed their disappointment at the European Parliament’s “soft” approach towards the Polish government’s growing homophobic stance.
The Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee of the European Parliament discussed the issue of homophobia in Poland on April 11. This followed a proposal by Poland’s minister of education to restrict the employment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in schools and education institutions.
Despite calls from some Members of the European Parliament to initiate procedures – which are provided by the EU treaty against member states that do not comply with the Union’s principles – the Parliamentary Committee adopted, what activists have called, “a softer approach.”
The discussion on Poland was initiated by two members of the Parliament; Kathalijne Buitenweg and Sophie in Â´tVeld. In their letter, the MEPs requested that the Committee evaluate whether the legislation proposed by Poland’s minister of education would be in contradiction to EU anti-discrimination regulations and would restrict freedom of speech.
In the debate, Committee members from Poland defended their government’s stance on the basis of “homosexual propaganda” and its “detrimental” effect on minors.
The Committee, however, did not reach a consensus to support a formal investigation on whether Poland is in breach of EU principles. Instead it suggested that the Fundamental Rights Agency should conduct a study on homophobia in Europe. At the same time the majority of political groups at the European Parliament agreed to ask the Commission and Council for a statement on homophobia in Europe and Poland later this month.
Activists have expressed frustration at the lack of firm action: “We are disappointed by the lack of consensus in the LIBE Committee on condemning hate speech. Suggestions by the Polish minister of education to discriminate against LGBT people in employment is not an isolated case of homophobia,” said Dr Christine Loudes, Policy Director of ILGA-Europe – the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.
In a statement, the organisation said that the “LIBE Committee’s soft approach and the lack of reaction from the Commission and Council are sending a signal that homophobic speech and acts are acceptable in the EU. It highlights the current lack of protection of fundamental rights in the EU.”