Analysis: EC on the road to confrontation with Poland

By Chris Mularczyk

President of the EC Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a new target for CO2 emissions reduction from 40 percent to 55 percent by 2030 and said the EC will propose legislation on LGBT rights which will affect family law in member states. Both policies will be resisted by the Polish government.

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In her state of the EU address to the European Parliament the EC President Ursula von der Leyen proposed to deepen the EU’s 2030 carbon cutting target from 40 percent to 55 percent. She justified the proposal for a new more ambitious target by asserting that it was required to meet the climate neutrality by 2050 objective which the EU has already adopted.

“We have to go faster. We have analysed the situation in detail in every sector in order to work out how quickly we can reduce emissions in a responsible way. We have consulted widely and looked at the likely effects. Some argue that this target is too ambitious, others that it is not ambitious enough, but our calculations show that our economy and industry can cope with this. “

Critics of the ambitious EU climate policies argue that these will export jobs to outside of the EU and affect economic development in the emerging states of Central Europe such as Poland. It is also debatable whether the EU which is responsible for a total of 8 percent of global emissions can make much impact on a global scale when the US, China, Russia, India and Brazil are not fully on board. But much will depend on what help the EU will be prepared to offer countries such as Poland to go faster in reducing the role of coal in its energy mix.

Poland depends on coal for its energy generation, with fossil fuel accounting for over 70 percent of those needs. But Poland has recently signalled it wants to stop coal emissions and cease production by 2060 at the latest. Nevertheless, that target is still some way away from that being pushed for by the EC.

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LGBT rights in European law

The EC’s proposal on CO2 emissions will have to be accepted by the member states in the European Council. And so will the issue of making LGBT rights mandatory in all member states.

In her address to the EP the EC President said that there is “no room in the EU for LGBT free zones”. “I will not rest in my efforts to create a union of equality in which everyone can be who they are without fear of being discriminated against. Being yourself is not an ideology. It is a matter of self-identity which cannot be forbidden. I want to make this clear; LGBT free zones are zones free of humanistic values. There is no place for them in our EU”.

This was seen as an allusion to reports of “LGBT free zones in Poland” that have been reinforced by photos of “LGBT free zone” signs in some Polish municipalities. But these were fakes. First of all the signs in question were actually put up for photographs by LGBT activists and do not, in reality, exist. Second, local authorities have passed resolutions on “LGBT ideology free zones” which imply that in their localities there will be no LGBT sex education.

Ms von der Leyen went on to announce that the EC will soon present a strategy for increasing the rights of LGBTQ+ people. That strategy is to include an attempt to standardise recognition of family rights in all of the EU. “If you are a parent in one country, you are a parent in all of Europe” she emphasised.

In reality this is an attempt to ensure that all single sex marriages have to be recognized in all EU member states. If this was agreed it is likely that the next step will be for there to be European legislation to standardize the definition of marriage meaning member states will have to enforce the principle of marriage equality that the LGBT activists have been campaigning for.

That would mean Poland would then be expected to recognize and enable single sex marriage. But Poland’s constitution stipulates that marriage is between a man and woman only. It also gives parents the rights to educate children in accordance with the parents values and beliefs, meaning that no LGBT sex education can every be compulsory in Polish schools.

An additional political factor in this is the fact that the Catholic Church and the Polish right, including the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) backed accession to the EU in the early noughties on the understanding that EU member states will retain the right to legislate on family affairs and issues of conscience such as abortion. Any departure from that principle from the EU side would be seen as a breach of trust and accession terms that were entered into.

Conflict between the EC and Poland set to intensify?

It doesn’t look as if the agreement between the EC in Poland over the approach to combating the effects of the pandemic and the size of the EU budget will mean that conflict cannot intensify in other areas. Even on the budget and the recovery fund there is disagreement on linking the payment of EU funds to rule of law compliance.

Indeed it seems that the EC may now try a different line of attack on the rule of law issue and test Poland on LGBT rights rather than just its judicial reform. And no guarantee that the issue of compulsory relocation of refugees may not return either.

The disagreement over the pace of attaining climate neutrality will not go away either. The new target will be even harder for Poland to hit than the current one.

It looks as if the pressure for an ever-closer union is to intensify. Linking EU funds to rule of law compliance, standardising family law, fiscal union and putting pressure on member states to make good on their commitments to introduce the single European currency are all likely to be in play.

At least for the time being there is no likelihood that the EU would move for closer ties with Russia. The Ukrainian, Belarusian and Navalny crises have seen to that. But that does not mean that the EU will deliver a common energy policy designed to stop dependence on Russian gas and oil. German interests and opposition to that seem to be too strong.

The long term problem is that should large parts of Europe become dependent on Russian gas while getting into conflict with the US over its gas exports Poland will be caught between a rock and a hard place. It needs the US for both its energy and military security, something that the EU is neither willing nor able to offer it.