Swietokrzyskie province in southern Poland is no longer an “LGBT Free” zone.
The province repealed its designation in a vote on Wednesday, after the European Union (EU) suspended negotiations on Covid relief funds for the region. Germany’s DW reports that in a session of the provincial assembly, 25 members supported the repeal while three abstained from voting.
The EU has been at odds with both Poland and Hungary over the eastern European nations’ restrictions on LGBTQ+ rights, which have increased under the current conservative governments. In Poland, around one-third of the country’s cities and provinces have declared themselves “LGBT Free” zones, a symbolic designation that signals lack of tolerance for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The EU has threatened to cut aid to provinces that have declared themselves “LGBT Free.” It had previously suspended funds to six towns that had declared themselves “LGBT Free” zones in 2020.
“The European Commission has stressed that it is against Article 2 of the European Treaties to define areas, workplaces, or services as LGBT-free,” said Andrzej Betkowski, who is the head of the Swietokrzyskie provincial administration, DW reports. The assembly has replaced the previous legislation with a new resolution, one which allows “a guarantee of equality and fair treatment for all.”
Proponents of LGBTQ+ rights in Poland have welcomed the reversal of the province’s designation. Bart Staszewski, an LGBTQ+ activist, has said the decision marks a “great day for Poland and great success of activists and civil society,” the AP reports. “I am really moved.”
The funds which the EU threatened to withhold from the province were part of the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU) package. Reuters reports that 1.5 billion euros in funding from the package have been allocated to Poland.