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The European Court of Justice (ECJ), the EU’s supreme court, has dismissed a legal challenge by Poland and Hungary and confirmed that the EU has the right to freeze funding to member states who do not comply with the bloc’s values.

The “conditionality mechanism” states that EU funding depends on member nations adhering to key membership principles, which include respecting LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion. Both Poland and Hungary have been widely criticised by other EU member states and the UK both for enacting anti-LGBTQ legislation and for the harassment of LGBTQ+ people by the authorities. Both countries’ poilice forces have consistently turned a blind eye to anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime and, according to some commentators, actively encouraged violence.

In its ruling, the ECJ stated, “Compliance with those values cannot be reduced to an obligation which a candidate state must meet in order to accede to the European Union and which it may disregard after accession.”

Since the court’s ruling, Poland has accused the EU of blackmail, with their justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro vowing to continue the country’s legal battle with the EU. In a statement following the ruling, Mr Ziobra said, “This is a historical moment when the EU changes from an area of freedom into an area where illegal violence may be perpetrated in order to strip the member countries of freedom and restrict their sovereignty.”

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, welcomed the judgment, reinforcing that her officials will “act with determination” against Hungary and Poland. 

In 2021, the European Commission took legal action against the two member states for “violations of [the] fundamental rights go LGBTIQ people. “Equality and the respect for dignity and human rights are core values of the EU, enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union. The commission will use all the instruments at its disposal to defend these values.”

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