Edinburgh mayor urges Polish city Krakow to defend LGBT+ rights amid calls for ‘serious rethink’ on twinning relationship


The mayor of Edinburgh has urged his counterpart in Krakow to confirm his opposition to homophobia after the region joined Poland’s growing ‘LGBT-free’ zone.

The two cities are twinned by a civic partnership agreement dating back to 1994, and cooperate in areas including culture, heritage, monument protection and education.

The commitment was renewed last year, but it could soon come to an end as a surge in Polish homophobia sparks calls for a “serious rethink” about the ties between the two cities.

The Edinburgh Evening News reports that the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Frank Ross, has written to Krakow’s mayor Jacek Majchrowski asking him to clarify the Polish city’s opposition to homophobia and LGBT+ oppression.

Around 100 municipalities in Poland have declared themselves to be ‘LGBT-free’ zones after signing a pledge opposing acts of tolerance towards the LGBT+ community.

These areas now cover around a third of the country, including the larger Małopolska region where Krakow is located.


The red area shows the municipalities in Poland that have signed the ‘LGBT-free’ pledge. (Atlas of Hate)

Mayor Majchrowski has publicly denounced homophobia and in July this year shared an open letter to of support to the LGBT+ citizens of Krakow.

“Dear LGBT+ people,” he wrote, “you are not alone. We are with you, we support you and we will do everything to make you feel at home in Krakow – because here is your home.”

Nevertheless, Lord Ross has urged Majchrowski to explicitly confirm that he still supports the shared principles on which the cities’ twinning relationship was founded.

It came after council depute leader Cammy Day submitted a motion calling for a report outlining any additional support Edinburgh may offer to “assist and support Krakow” in resisting homophobic policies.

The motion also requests a review of the council’s international strategy, including information on how civic partnerships can support the city’s views and values around equality.

Edinburgh wouldn’t be the first to end a twinning partnership over Poland’s increasing homophobia. The French town of Saint-Jean-de-Braye was the first to break its partnership with Tuchów in Poland, declaring that the relationship was now “tainted”.

They were soon followed by the town of Fermoy in the Republic of Ireland and the town of Nieuwegein in the Netherlands.

Twinned towns can obtain EU grants of up to €150,000 through the partnership scheme – but earlier this month funding was withheld from six ‘LGBT-free’ Polish towns as they refused to respect “EU values and fundamental rights”.