Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein withdraw major grant to Polish region over 'LGBT-free zone' resolution

According to activist Bartosz Staszewski's investigation, a Polish tourist destination has lost a major grant for a culture and natural heritage project.

A man holds up a sign with Polish writing

Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein withdrew a major cultural and natural heritage grant to Carpathian Mountains over the Polish region’s resolution against ‘LGBT ideology’.

According to three letters exchanged between Norwegian and Polish officials, the grant was withdrawn in September 2020. This international culture and natural heritage project, “Carpathian Route–exploring, promoting and protecting the richness of the cultural and natural heritage of the Carpathian Region”, would have provided 8.4 million zloty ($2.25 million) in funding.

Referring to the southeastern Polish region of Podkarpackie, a Norwegian official wrote, “By adopting a resolution explicitly referring to ‘LGBT’ or ‘LGBT ideology’ the lead partner discriminates against an identifiable group of persons.”

In 2019, Podkarpackie, at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, passed a resolution “expressing opposition to the promotion and affirmation of the ideology of the so called LGBT movements.” According to a letter written in October, Poland’s minister of funds and regional policy, Malgorzata Jarosinska-Jedynak, stated the ‘LGBT-free zones’ “do not…discriminate against anyone on the basis of any personal features. (They) do not entail any legal consequences, are only opinions and do not affect rights and obligations of the residents.”

LGBTQ+ activist Bartosz Staszewski brought these various letters to light on Tuesday, February 2. Speaking with the Thomas Reuters Foundation, he called on the Polish government to provide further information regarding the status of Norgewian grants.

Staszewski said, “Transparency – which is in Norway, where they sent me the documents so fast and without asking me for anything – should also be implemented in Poland. I think that they want to hide something from the public. Citizens should have access to it.”

Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein’s withdrawal of a major grant to the Polish region continues a mounting international pressure on the country over its homophobic policies. In 2020, the head of the European commission, Ursula von der Leyen, titled “LGBT-free zones” as “humanity-free zones”. 

Due to a rise in these discriminatory practices across Poland, numerous EU countries have pulled out of their twinning programmes and cancelled funding in solidarity with the queer community. After Fermoy, Co Cork, terminated their twinning arrangement with Nowa Dęba, the Polish town recently withdrew their resolution on being an ‘LGBT-free zone’.

Speaking with GCN, Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, welcomed Nowa Dęba’s decision and further expressed, “We look forward to further progress in Poland on LGBT rights.”

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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