Both houses of the Polish Parliament voted last week to ratify the European Union's new constitution, called the Lisbon Treaty, with a clause that allows the country to opt out of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Sejm (lower house) passed the bill on April 1, with 384 voting for, 56 against and 12 abstaining. The Senate voted the following day, with 74 in favor, 17 against and 6 abstaining.
In March, the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, angered Polish and European homosexual activists by warning that ratification of the Treaty without an opt-out of the Charter could allow gay activists to force Poland to accept homosexual "marriage" or civil unions, a move opposed by a majority of Poles.
"An article of the charter," he said, "…may go against the universally accepted moral order in Poland and force our country to introduce an institution in conflict with the moral convictions of the decided majority of our country."
Poland has thus far withstood increasing pressure from the EU and European homosexual activist organisations to abolish or weaken the country's constitutional protections of natural marriage and the unborn. Poland remains, despite declines, 89.8 percent Catholic, with about 75 percent practicing their faith, one of the highest rates of religious practice of any of the Catholic European countries. Gay activists in Europe have complained regularly that because of the country's strongly Catholic character, public opinion in Poland has not been so easy to sway as in the rest of Europe.
A last-minute compromise was found between Liberal Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Lech Kaczynski that allowed the bill ratifying the Treaty to pass in Parliament with the required two-thirds support. After announcing the compromise, Kaczynski, the leader of the Euro-sceptic faction in Poland, and Prime Minister Tusk, seen as a Europhile, jointly campaigned in their parties to support the bill.
President Kaczynski said that he would not sign the bill until Prime Minister Tusk had fulfilled an agreement that would guarantee that the terms Poland had negotiated could not be changed.
The Lisbon Treaty has already been ratified by Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Malta, Romania and Slovenia. Many, including Poland's opposition Law and Justice party, have warned that the Treaty, like the failed Constitution it replaces, removes sovereign powers from nations and places too much legislative power in the hands of an unaccountable supra-national body. The Treaty must be ratified by all the member nations of the EU by the end of 2008 for it to come into effect on schedule January 1, 2009.
The UK is the only other nation in the 27-member EU to opt out of the Charter. The news that Poland will likely join the Treaty signatories will come as a blow to those in Britain campaigning to force the Labour government to make good on its campaign promise of a referendum. Some had speculated that had the Polish government allowed a plebiscite on the Treaty, the precedent would embarrass Gordon Brown into allowing one in Britain. Thus far, despite all parties including a referendum promise in the last general election, only the opposition Conservatives under David Cameron have stuck to the promise.