Poland’s justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro has authorised the vetoing of the European Council’s annual statement on the implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Poland decided to do so in protest at the rejection of its proposal to include protection of Jews and Christians against religious discrimination.
The Ministry explained the reasoning for its veto by stating that it viewed discrimination on religious grounds as being equally important to other forms of discrimination.
“Participating in the work on the European Council’s conclusions on the implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the EU Poland proposed to make protection of the Christian and Jewish religions against discrimination equally as important to the protection against the discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, age and ethnicity.”
Poland proposed an amendment to that effect with a commitment to counter religious discrimination against Jews and Christians. When it did not receive support for its amendments from other member states’ delegations, Poland decided to use its veto.
According to the Justice Ministry, “respect for the rights and freedoms of all citizens is a matter of Polish tradition and not only of its laws. This is why, as a member of a union based on values Poland, regards itself as a guardian of the rights and freedoms described in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. It feels that it is its duty to stand up in defence of those whose rights and freedoms are being violated.”
Poland’s deputy justice minister Łukasz Piebiak, who led the Polish delegation at the session discussing the matter, commented that Poland could not accept the view of many in Western Europe that religious discrimination of Jews and Christians should not be elevated to the same level as the discrimination of LGBT groups.
“From our point of view this was nonsensical, as attacks on Jews and Christians for their faiths had actually resulted in some fatalities… so there was no point in signing the document.”
The present Polish government, formed by the Law and Justice party (PiS) has been vocal in defending Christian values and respect for religious freedoms as core European values. The ruling party has argued for more to be done at international level to prevent discrimination against Christian minorities in the Middle East and for the rights of conscience and display of religious symbols for practicing Christians in Europe.