EDITO: What happens in Poland does not stay in Poland  

26 February 2021 | Position, Statement

The EU cannot allow women to become pawns in political game when lives are at stake, livelihoods are threatened, and the rule of law is deteriorating”   

100 ongoing days of protests, 600 cities, and 3,000 people charged, investigated, prosecuted. This is just a snapshot of the recent mobilisations in Poland protesting the near total abortion ban, which came into force on 27 January 2021. The political capture of the Polish constitutional court, persecution of organisers of peaceful protests, attacks on freedom of assembly, and crackdown on free and independent media, and civil society organisations in Poland have permeated our news feeds for the past months.

We are outraged by these shocking violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in Poland, and deeply concerned about the repercussions this has for the state of civic space in Europe. The Polish government’s efforts to control the narrative and occupy civil society spaces at the national level and in Brussels is disturbing.

It all started long ago, and the Polish Women’s Strike has been mobilising people in the streets since 2016, turning from a one-issue movement into a strong movement in defence of democracy and a Poland for all.


But, here is an overview of recent key events:

  • 22 October 2020: Poland’s constitutional court ruled that abortions in cases of foetal defects are unconstitutional, resulting in an almost total ban.
  • 29 October 2021: ECF publishes an open letter on issues regarding lack of transparency in the nomination process for members of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).
  • 27 January 2021: Abortion law comes into force in Poland.

  • 10 February 2021: Marta Lempart, Leader of Women’s Strike, is charged with crimes that could result in imprisonment for up to 8 years following further protests.
  • 18 February 2021: Poland launches state-funded research centre to “counter Christianophobia”, whilst the LGBTI Intergroup in the European Parliament raises concerns over the Nomination of Tymoteusz Adam Zych as Member of the EESC.
  • 24 February 2021: LIBE and FEMM Committees holds a joint hearing on “Attacks on abortion rights and breaches of the Rule of Law in Poland”.


Developments on the ground effect civic space at the EU level

The backsliding of rule of law and attacks on fundamental rights and freedoms in Poland should be a concern for us all.

“If we lose the rule of law, if we lose judicial independence, we lose everything” 

Marta Lempart, LIBER and FEMM Committee hearing, 24 February 2021 

Poland’s crackdown on civil society illustrated by examples such as the new state-funded Institute on Christianophobia opens the flood gates for other member states to repress civic space in the name of their state identity, be it Christian or secular.

Not only are we are seeing trends encroaching across the region, but we are also witnessing regressive figures from Poland occupying civil society spaces in Brussels in a climate of disrespect for official procedure. Simultaneously, these figures undermine the work of established civil society organisations working to preserve and enlarge civic space and democratic rights. The ongoing effort to control the narrative has led to Poland’s dubious EESC nomination of Tymoteusz Adam Zych, vice-president of the Board of Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture, an institute well known for promoting anti-LGBTI and anti-women’s rights rhetoric in Poland. This penetration of EU Institutions is likely to shape debates at the European level towards the normalisation of anti-women’s rights discourses, ultimately undermining gender equality, human rights and democracy.

The EU cannot allow women to become pawns in political game when lives are at stake, livelihoods are threatened, and the rule of law is deteriorating, in Poland, and across the EU. Women’s rights and democracy are core values upon which the EU was built on, and the EU should make it clear that they are non-negotiable.