Left-wing MEPs, including Sylwia Spurek and Robert Biedroń, want to block the work in the EU Economic and Social Committee of Poland's representative, Tymoteusz Zych PhD. In a letter to the committee's authorities, they accuse him of having conservative views and collaborating with the human rights think tank - Ordo Iuris Institute, whose activities they falsely describe. Following political pressure, the EESC's Diversity Group authorities have launched a "clarification procedure". In the coming days, a hearing on the member's views will be held.
Dr. Zych replied to the MEPs by sending them an open letter. He reminds in it, that the role of the European Economic and Social Committee is to represent various types of social organizations from all over the continent. The EESC's Diversity Group is by definition a space for open debate. The diversity of views of its members is a condition for the committee to be able to form balanced opinions that truly reflect the beliefs of Europeans.
The committee established in 1957 pursuant to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union consists of representatives of employers' organizations, trade unions and non-governmental organizations, including those representing consumers and defending human rights. It provides opinions on almost every act of EU law. The composition of the Committee is approved by the Council of the European Union, and its members are, according to the TFEU, "completely independent in the performance of their duties". There is no procedure in place to remove a member from a group or committee on the basis of his views.
Dr. Zych PhD represents in the Committee the Polish Federation of NGOs (KIPR) - one of the largest NGO networks in Poland, which associates organizations from all over the country, including smaller towns.
- I am shocked that politicians, who so often talk about diversity, attack the very essence of civil society. Polish Federation of NGOs is a space for dialogue and cooperation between civil society organizations. The authors' attack on an independent organization is a reminder of the worst practices of the past. I am counting on apologies from MEPs - emphasizes Przemysław Jaśkiewicz, president of KIPR.
The authors of the letter do not refer directly to the activities of dr. Zych in the EESC nor his own statements. They are trying to stigmatize him only because of his involvement in the activities of the Ordo Iuris Institute - a think tank entered in the EU transparency register and having a formal consultative status at the United Nations.
Dr. Zych highlights that the Ordo Iuris Institute protects the rights of every citizen, regardless of their individual characteristics. It is an impartial and politically independent organization, supported by over 15,000 private donors annually, and its help is used by hundreds of people in need, including families, children, single parents, victims of domestic violence and asylum seekers, including members of religious and ethnic minorities.
Karolina Pawłowska, director of the Ordo Iuris Center for International Law and Mr. Zych’s deputy at the EESC, is surprised by the thesis put forward by MEPs that Ordo Iuris "undermines women's rights". - The accusations raised by politicians are not based on the actual activity of Ordo Iuris. From the very beginning, we have been working to combat discrimination against women in the social and legal sphere, in particular on the grounds of motherhood. Our Litigation Center has been supporting victims of domestic violence for many years. On March 8, we are organizing the second edition of the conference on women's rights, which will be attended - as in the past - by leading representatives of science, lawyers, social leaders and experts from around the world - she emphasizes.
The attacks on the vice-president of Ordo Iuris and the KIPR are a precedent in which politicians exert pressure on an apolitical EU body with strong guarantees of independence. It is also an undermining of the decision on the election of a member of the Committee taken by the EU Member States at the forum of the EU Council, and previously positively assessed by the European Commission. If the pressure is effective, there is a threat of a "chilling effect" that will restrict the freedom of debate in key areas in the future.
Mr. Zych, PhD is convinced that many singatories of the letter supported it due to insufficient understanding of the situation in Poland. In an open letter, he calls on politicians to engage in constructive dialogue instead of the pointless confrontation.
The full text of the open letter is available here.
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