Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Compromising the EU policy of conditionality: Polish Catholic Right Wingers against sexual minorities and human rights


The current Polish government is leading increasingly intolerant policies towards sexual minorities. Recently officials of the government parties called for the banning of the Warsaw gay parade. Moreover, the Polish Minister of Education - Roman Giertych, (coming from radical right wing populist party - League of Polish Families) has dismissed director of Central Teachers Training Centre for publishing in Polish the Compass - Council of Europe manual on human rights education with young people. Minister claimed in public that he couldn’t accept that the Polish government spends money on Compass manual “promoting gay and lesbian behaviours”.

The reaction from the European Union was rather mild in comparison to the treatment of the Austrian extreme right-winger Heider. Silence coming from the other EU member states makes one wander up to what extent historical prejudices, and not the honest assessment of the nature of one’s politics, play the role in deciding on the treatment of right-wing populist parties.

More importantly, the case of Poland, and the mild reaction of other member states, directly compromise the EU enlargement and foreign policy. How can the EU pretend to demand from the hopeful candidates in Turkey and South Eastern Europe to respect its human rights standards when some of its own Member States (Poland) lag behind in this respect? Possibly, we are witnessing a certain shift in the lowest common denominator in the EU human rights standards?

2 comments:

Iowan said...

"Silence coming from the other EU member states makes one wander up to what extent historical prejudices and not the honest assessment of the nature of one’s politics play the role in deciding on the treatment of right-wing populist parties."

Good point. And I would add that prejudicial politics (somehow endemic on the far right) whether historical or personal, based on race, class, or sexual orientation, are especially successful at exposing deep biases and undermining a consistent human rights policy.
Europe beware: right-wing “family values” politics has increasingly befouled, hamstringed, and diverted the political process (and progress) in the USA, and it would be a shame to see this aspect of American politics creep into Europe like image-driven, Madison Avenue politicking has recently.

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"How can the EU pretend to demand from the hopeful candidates in Turkey and South Eastern Europe to respect its human rights standards when some of its own Member States (Poland) lag behind in this respect? Possibly, we are witnessing a certain shift in the lowest common denominator in the EU human rights standards?"

Absolutely. And not only lower standards, but double standards and hypocrisy, which are not lost on these candidate states. This may be slightly tangential, but allowing CIA renditions comes to mind. Yes, the recent Council of Europe report on Europe’s collusion with the CIA is a good thing, but the damage is done and people, especially Muslim peoples in Turkey, have certainly taken note. Now, on the premise that the Iraq war is illegal, immoral, and violating human rights on a scale far surpassing Saddam Hussein's rule, then covert cooperation (Germany, for example) with the US in pre Iraq war intelligence also comes to mind. Italian complicity in falsified intelligence (Niger yellowcake documents) ditto. Britain's contribution to the "War on Terror" ought to have them moved, together with the USA, to the dungeon of human-rights abusers with Sudan, North Korea and the Taliban - Blair’s disingenuous (and late) protests contra Guantanamo notwithstanding. NATO's dumping of depleted uranium all over former Yugoslavia and the Middle East does not exactly inspire respect (especially, I would imagine, from irradiated peoples in Serbia and Kosovo.) Furthermore, many European countries are no beacons of human rights with regard to their own immigrant populations, in general.

Iowan said...

Ok, with that said, I would raise a question concerning European "division of labor" in upholding human rights.

Where does responsibility lie: with the peoples of individual member nations (an internal, bottom-up socio-political process); with the governments of individual member nations (a quasi-internal, top-down process); or with the overarching EU structure (an external, supra-national, top-down mechanism).

Enforcing human rights standards: should this be, can this be an external, or top-down process or mechanism?

Another question: enforce, or embrace? How and where is consensus best created?