Belgian regions close Warsaw office over rule of law record, anti-LGBT+ discrimination

by Reuters
Friday, 20 November 2020 15:05 GMT

Palace of Culture and Science is illuminated in rainbow colours in a gesture of solidarity with the LGBT community during International Day of Tolerance in Warsaw, Poland, November 16, 2020. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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Brussels and Wallonia closed their office of representation in Poland's capital over what they say is the government's threat to judicial and media independence and anti-gay discrimination

By Marine Strauss

BRUSSELS, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The Belgian regions of Brussels and Wallonia closed their office of representation in Warsaw on Friday over what they say is the Polish government's threat to judicial and media independence and anti-gay discrimination.

The office, which represents the regions in fields such as culture, sport, tourism and scientific exchange, has seven staff and will be closed for an unspecified time, the Walloon region and the Walloon-Brussels federation said in a statement.

"For several years, the authoritarian excesses of the government in place have undermined the rule of law," Walloon Premier Elio Di Rupo and his Walloon-Brussels counterpart, Pierre-Yves Jeholet, said in a joint statement.

"Attacking the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers is endangering democracy and European integration, we cannot accept it," they said.

Poland, along with Hungary, is under EU investigation for undermining the rule of law and risks losing access to tens of billions of euros in EU funds.

The two countries vetoed the bloc's 1.8 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion) budget and fund to drive recovery from the COVID-19 recession, even though they are beneficiaries, because the money is conditional on respect for the rule of law.

($1 = 0.8426 euros) (Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Steve Orlofsky)