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Prime minister:
Polish gays treated just fine

Prime minister:
Polish gays treated just fine

Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Wednesday sought to dispel concerns over Warsaw's stance on gay rights and the alleged rise in xenophobia in the country, saying gays and lesbians are not persecuted in Poland and strict provisions against anti-Semitism are in place.

The new Polish leader, the identical twin brother of Polish president Lech Kaczynski, also called Poland's two-year membership in the European Union a "success," saying his government would push for the dismantling of market barriers within the E.U. to enhance the 25-nation bloc's economic potential.

Kaczynski chose Brussels for his first foreign trip since taking power two months ago to highlight the importance he is placing on fixing Poland's image problem in Western Europe, following criticism over issues from Warsaw's position on gay rights to the death penalty and accusations of economic protectionism.

"Do not believe in the myth of an anti-Semitic, homophobic, and xenophobic Poland. Please come to Poland; visit my country. You can go to clubs, you can ask around, you will not see anything bad," Kaczynski told journalists after meeting European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

Several contentious issues have bubbled up between Brussels and Warsaw since the Kaczynskis' conservative Law and Justice Party won the parliamentary election late last year. Lech Kaczynski won the presidency weeks later. The governing coalition includes populists and ultra-Catholics. The inclusion of the right-wing League of Polish Families, whose members have spoken out against homosexuality, has sparked protest because of its close links with a far-right radical youth movement.

Homosexuality remains taboo in Poland, as it does in much of Eastern Europe. When Lech Kaczynski was mayor of Warsaw he refused permits for gay pride marches in 2004 and 2005. He once said that "it would be very dangerous for our civilization to put homosexual rights on an equal footing."

A recent European Parliament resolution warned of rising intolerance in Poland and even raised the possibility of sanctions. But in his remarks Wednesday, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said that gays enjoy "all the rights in Poland.... There is no tradition of persecution of people of another sexual orientation. For decades it has been known about many prominent people, they are homosexuals, it has never been a problem. What we have now in Poland are gay clubs, gay literature, gay press--this is all functioning normally." (AP)

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