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‘Laughing-stock’ Polish town revokes ‘LGBT-free’ status so it can keep lucrative EU grants

Emma Powys Maurice April 30, 2021
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A woman holding a crucifix screams anti-LGBT+ slogans at a Pride parade in Krakow, Poland in 2020 (Omar Marques/Getty)

An ‘LGBT-free’ town in Poland dubbed “Europe’s laughing-stock” has withdrawn its official homophobic status after Norway threatened to revoke a multi-million Euro grant.

The small community of Kraśnik in eastern Poland was among the first in the country to sign a public declaration against LGBT+ rights in May 2019.

The document declared the town “free from LGBT+ ideology” and promised to combat “homopropaganda” and the “sexualisation of children”.

But the town’s mayor rapidly realised that actions have consequences when Kraśnik became “a synonym for homophobia”, he complained to the New York Times.

Now with millions of Euros in EU grants at stake, councillors have backtracked and voted to withdraw the anti-LGBT+ resolution to save their town.

“If we repeal this resolution, we have a better chance of obtaining external funds in the future,” said mayor Wojciech Wilk ahead of the vote, quoted by Dziennik Wschodni.

“I mean especially Norwegian funds,” he added, referring to the 35 million zloty (€7.7 million) he hopes to receive for development projects.

Poland is the largest recipient of the so-called Norway Grants, and is budgeted to receive €411.5 million between 2014 and 2021, according to Notes from Poland – plus a further €397.8 million from EEA Grants, to which Norway is the main contributor.

But last year, Norway’s foreign minister announced that Poland’s “LGBT-free” towns wouldn’t receive a penny of the funding, which is offered to support civil society, justice, social inclusion, innovation and other causes.

Kraśnik was also the beneficiary of the EU’s lucrative twinning programme, but this dried up when the town’s French counterpart severed the relationship in protest.

All combined, Kraśnik’s commitment to homophobia could’ve cost the town around €3-10 million, according to Polish media.

“By repealing, we can take a very big step in overcoming our image crisis,” said Wilk. “Whether fairly or not, we are not presented very sympathetically.”

Despite the obvious financial threat to the town the mayor faced an uphill battle to get the resolution repealed: last year councillors stubbornly voted to uphold it by a majority of 11 to nine.

One elderly local declared he would rather live on a diet of just potatoes than give into economic pressure from outside to repeal the resolution.

“I don’t want their money,” he said, admitting that he’s never seen any gay people in Kraśnik but still felt precautions were necessary. “We will survive.”

But it turns out Kraśnik really does want the money, as nine of 19 councillors present voted in favour of repeal. Six others favoured keeping the resolution, while four abstained.

Meanwhile, the mayor of the town of Wilamowice, in southern Poland, is said to be “devastated” after his councillors voted narrowly to keep their anti-LGBT+ resolution this week.

The decision is likely to result in the loss of 7.3 million zloty in Norway Grants, which were going to be used to build a museum.

Related topics: European Union, Homophobia, LGBT-free zones, Poland

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