Poland Goes it Alone Warsaw Blocks European Anti-Death Penalty Day
Warsaw has clashed with other EU member states by vetoing the creation of a European Day against the Death Penalty. At a heated meeting of EU ministers on Tuesday, Poland said it wants to promote the "right to life" instead -- and highlight issues such as abortion and euthanasia.
Europeans have long been against the death penalty. Earlier this year, the Colosseum was lit up in support of Italy's efforts to get the UN to ban executions.
Once again Warsaw was not willing to play ball with its European partners, insisting the EU "approach the subject in a broader way and debate the protection of life" -- including issues such as abortion and euthanasia. Poland is a staunchly Roman Catholic country and is one of only three EU countries, together with Ireland and Malta, that prohibits abortion on demand.
At Tuesday's meeting Poland's deputy justice minister, Andrzej Duda, suggested the EU should celebrate a "right to life day" instead of marking its opposition to the death penalty. He then shocked his colleagues by reading out loud the number of abortions in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Afterwards, Danish Justice Minister Lene Espersen said that the Polish performance was an expression of "moral decay," Italy's Justice Minister Clememete Mastela called the Polish stance "arrogant," while Britain's Justice Minister Jack Straw insisted Poland should not push the issue of abortion at the EU level. "I just dont think it's appropriate for partisan politics," he told reporters. Germany's Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries agreed: "Everybody else said that's not an issue."
The ruling Kaczynski twins -- Lech, the president, and Jaroslaw, the prime minister -- have said that they personally favor the death penalty but do not plan to reinstate it. Their Law and Justice Party is currently in the throes of an election campaign and is running on a pro-family platform.
The clash with Poland could undermine the EU's diplomatic efforts at the United Nations to introduce a global moratorium on the death penalty. Many nations, including the United States and China, continue to impose death sentences.
In the light of Poland's intransigence, Portugal, current holder of the EU presidency, decided not to submit the issue to a vote on Tuesday, but Portuguese Justice Minister Alberto Costa insisted this "does not mean that Europe is not committed to the abolition of the death penalty in the world." "We are going to work in order to issue a strong message that will dignify the continent of Europe," he told reporters, saying that Portugal would instead hold a high-level international conference in Lisbon on Oct. 9.