Is Europe toughening up at last?


Photo by Tabrez Syed on Unsplash

In nearly 70 years of Europe’s union, member states have learnt a valuable lesson – they have free will, access to pooled funds and the ability to stare down unwelcome directives and regulations from the bloc’s executive authority, the European Commission.

Now, not so much.

On July 29, the European Union actually announced that it would withhold funds for six Polish towns. For being insufficiently European in the sense of upholding the equality of all.

The six towns apparently had adopted so-called “family rights” resolutions, which penalised same-sex couples and anyone who varied from heterosexual orientation.

European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli subsequently tweeted that “EU values and fundamental rights must be respected by Member States and state authorities”.

Without identifying the six towns that had applied for money to link up with others across the EU, Ms Dalli explicitly noted that this was the reason they were “rejected”.

That’s a massive rejection.

The sums under consideration were up to 25,000 euros apiece. Not insubstantial – and certainly free money – for a small town somewhere on the continent.

The EU’s ‘Europe for Citizens’ project seeks to build links between towns in different parts of the bloc.

Rejecting the six Polish towns for being insufficiently European was a sign that Europe is prepared to allow for member-states’ free will even as it indicates that actions have consequences.

Not before time.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has been penalising the country’s LGBTQ community, should consider itself warned.