Over 100,000 Poles rallied across more than 100 towns and cities in Poland and abroad, after a national court ruled that some EU legislation is not compatible with the country’s constitution – triggering fears of a Polexit.
In capital Warsaw, up to 100,000 people chanted “We are staying!” and marched with EU and Polish flags, according to Reuters.
Former European Council president Donald Tusk, and leader of the Civic Platform, Poland’s opposition party, said the court ruling and the right-wing government led by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) are threatening Poland’s European future.
‘Why the Polish government wants to leave the EU’
“We know why they want to leave (the EU)… so that they can violate democratic rules with impunity,” he said, among thousands of protesters in Warsaw.
But PiS refuted claims that it is planning to take Poland out of the European Union, despite prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki welcoming the Polish court ruling and suggesting the country is being disrespected by the bloc.
Last year, European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said Poland’s “LGBT-free zones” have no place in the EU and labelled them as “humanity-free zones”.
The Law and Justice government in Poland – as well as its eurosceptic ally, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – have rubbed up against the EU on numerous occasions over undercutting democratic standards, but also taking funds from the EU.
Right-wing Polish govt clashed with EU on LGBT and women aspects
Being yourself is not your ideology,” Von der Leyen told applauding MEPs in the European parliament in Brussels. “It’s your identity,” she said. “So I want to be crystal clear – LGBTQI-free zones are humanity free zones. And they have no place in our union.”
The PiS also took steps last year to leave the Istanbul Convention, a European treaty against domestic violence, claiming it promotes gender “ideology” and links violence to religion.
The country’s justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro said he would formally ask the Ministry of Family to start preparations for Poland’s exit from the convention, an initiative of the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation.
The convention states that men and women have equal rights and obliges state authorities to take steps to prevent violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.
He insisted Poland’s own legislation protects women and children against violence to an even higher degree than the convention.
Council of Europe secretary general Marija Pejcinovic Buric said Poland’s intentions to withdraw from the convention are “alarming” and encouraged a “constructive dialogue” to clarify any misunderstandings.
“Leaving the Istanbul Convention would be highly regrettable and a major step backwards in the protection of women against violence in Europe,” Pejcinovic Buric tweeted.
Government critics expressed outrage on social media, saying the right-wing government of the conservative Law and Justice party was ready to sacrifice women’s safety for its own views based on Roman Catholic traditions.
Related: EU President slams Poland’s ‘LGBT-free zones’ calling them ‘humanity-free zones’
Poland divided over plan to exit Istanbul Convention on domestic violence