Joint letter on Bishop Szymon Niemiec of Warsaw

Dear Vice-President Jourová, Vice-President Schinas, Commissioner Reynders and Commissioner Dalli,

We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, are writing to express our concerns about the situation of the Rt. Rev. Szymon Niemiec, a Bishop in Warsaw who is facing charges for offending religious feelings by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office for the City of Warsaw.

For some years, Bishop Szymon and his colleagues, Deacon Mariusz Wrzesinski and Mr Krzysztof Leszczynski, have been offering services of prayer and support to the local LGBTQI community in Warsaw, in connection with the city’s annual Equality March. We understand that Bishop Szymon was summoned to attend the Chief Prosecutor’s Office for the City of Warsaw on 28 October 2019 to face charges and is currently awaiting the Chief Prosecutor’s decision. We also understand that his two colleagues face the same charges. Under Article 196 of the Polish Penal Code, those found guilty of offending the religious feelings of others, defined as ‘outraging in public an object of religious worship or a place dedicated to the public celebration of religious rites’ are subject to a fine, restriction of liberty or imprisonment for up to two years. Following Bishop Szymon’s interrogation, he was sent by the Prosecutor to attend a psychiatric examination.

EU membership is conditional on complying with EU standards, rules and values. We are concerned that in summoning Bishop Szymon to face charges for offending religious feelings on the grounds of his support for the LGBTQI community, Poland is failing to respect the fundamental EU values laid down in Article 2 TEU, and the rights set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, notably the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority; and the right to nondiscrimination based on any ground, including sexual orientation.

In her political guidelines for the new European Commission, President von der Leyen states that ‘we need equality for all and equality in all of its senses’. We share this view and are concerned that the Prosecutor’s decision to summon Bishop Szymon to face charges under Article 196 of the Polish Penal Code fails to uphold this core principle, which has allowed the EU to deliver more than 50 years of peace, stability and prosperity.

We would be grateful if you could confirm what steps the new Commission will take to ensure that the principles of equality for all and dignity are upheld in all Member States. We also ask if you could clarify the scope and provisions of the new anti-discrimination legislation proposed by President von der Leyen and explain how this legislation will strengthen the protection of EU citizens’ rights.

We look forward to receiving your response at the earliest opportunity.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Horwood MEP (UK, Renew Europe)
Heidi Hautala MEP (Finland, Greens/EFA)
Barbara Gibson MEP (UK, Renew Europe)
Petra De Sutter MEP (Belgium, Greens/EFA)
Moritz Körner MEP (Germany, Renew Europe)
Ellie Chowns MEP (UK, Greens/EFA)
Nathalie Loiseau MEP (France, Renew Europe)
Nicolae Ștefănuţă MEP (Romania, Renew Europe)
Frédérique Ries MEP (Belgium, Renew Europe)
Jan-Christoph Oetjen MEP (Germany, Renew Europe)
Hilde Vautmans MEP (Belgium, Renew Europe)
Benoît Biteau MEP (France, Greens/EFA)
Rasmus Andresen MEP (Germany, Greens/EFA)
Tineke Strik MEP (Netherlands, Greens/EFA)
Shaffaq Mohammed MEP (UK, Renew Europe)
Erik Marquardt MEP (Germany, Greens/EFA)
Terry Reintke MEP (Germany, Greens/EFA)
Dietmar Köster MEP (Germany, S&D)
José Gusmão MEP (Portugal, GUE/NGL)
Marisa Matias MEP (Portugal, GUE/NGL)
Petras Auštrevičius MEP (Lithuania, Renew Europe)
Monika Vana MEP (Austria, Greens/EFA)
Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield MEP (France, Greens/EFA)
Manuel Bompard MEP (France, GUE/NGL)
Marie Toussaint MEP (France, Greens/EFA)
Catherine Bearder MEP (UK, Renew Europe)
Sheila Ritchie MEP (UK, Renew Europe)
Milan Brglez MEP (Slovenia, S&D)
Lucy Nethsingha MEP (UK, Renew Europe)
Radka Maxová MEP (Czechia, Renew Europe)
Alexandra Louise Rosenfield Phillips MEP (UK, Greens/EFA)
Seb Dance MEP (UK, S&D)
Antony Hook MEP (UK, Renew Europe)
Phil Bennion MEP (UK, Renew Europe)
Dimitrios Papadimoulis MEP (Greece, GUE/NGL)
Javier Nart MEP (Spain, Renew Europe)
Clare Daly MEP (Ireland, GUE/NGL)
Jackie Jones MEP (UK, S&D)
Fredrick Federley MEP (Sweden, Renew Europe)
Abir Al-Sahlani MEP (Sweden, Renew Europe)
Sophie in ’t Veld MEP (Netherlands, Renew Europe)

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