The re-election of Andrjez Duda in Poland last month, much like Victor Orban’s reelection in Hungary two years ago, has ensured a rare period of political stability for conservatives in central Europe. So what have social conservatives to show for it? Not enough. Even though European nationalist parties have been in power for over a decade in Hungary and almost a decade in Poland, the EU diplomatic machinery continues to promote abortion rights and the LGBTQI+ agenda aggressively at the United Nations and around the world.
During his recent reelection campaign, Duda ran a platform touting Poland’s “sacred” and “inviolable” tradition and opposing the LGBT agenda. Orban is making the case that his political project is the true “Christian democracy.” But not all of Fidesz and Law and Justice’s actions are consistent with this rhetoric.
For a decade, nationalist political leaders in Europe have stood by and watched as EU bureaucrats promote abortion rights, the abolition of conscience rights for doctors, a resurgence of Malthusian population control, and the entire LGBTQI+ agenda. The EU establishment does it through an elaborate shell game of EU Council mandates related to “human rights,” “reproductive health,” and “sexual orientation and gender identity.” And they do it with the support of Poland and Hungary’s votes in the Council.
Given how long European nationalists have been in power, it is very disappointing to see no real changes to the EU position on life and family internationally. Poland and Hungary effectively have veto power over all major aspects of EU foreign policy. EU foreign policy on social issues is the result of annual agreements that are consensually adopted by the EU Council. Blocking pro-abortion and anti-family EU foreign policy would be entirely consistent with nationalist rhetoric about preserving domestic prerogatives on sensitive social policy issues, and it would be a goal within European nationalists’ reach.
Even domestically, not all the policies of Fidesz and Law and Justice have been the pro-life and pro-family boon that nationalists would make them out to be. Orban and Duda have kept at bay some of the more extreme LGBT demands, including transgender identity change and gay marriage. But Fidesz recently enacted state-funded embryo-destructive artificial reproduction, and Law and Justice has repeatedly scuttled legislation to ban eugenic abortion. This is not to say that Polish and Hungarian nationalists are acting in bad faith. When it comes to certain domestic policies incentivizing families to have children, both Hungary and Poland are indeed producing generous and even groundbreaking policies. We should hope that they will continue to improve them domestically and promote them internationally, as they have been doing. But this is far from enough.
The inaction of Poland and Hungary may be explained as the result of self-deception to which conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic often fall prey. The silliest self-deception is that merely promoting neutral policies to support families—and avoiding the hot-button issues—is a sufficient way forward for social conservatives. Poland and Hungary have now hosted two conferences in the U.S. Capitol to promote their pro-life and pro-family bona fides. But the conferences weren’t much more than an occasion for Poland and Hungary to highlight their generous fiscal policies for families.
Promoting social and economic support for families, while professing neutrality on the hot-button issues, allows Poland and Hungary to avoid direct confrontation with Brussels, even as they pander to social conservative voters and conservative allies in the U.S. They don’t realize how harmful it actually is to back away from a direct and political confrontation with Brussels on the life and family issues.
Through EU foreign policy, Poland and Hungary are giving political and financial support to the very anti-natalist political forces they are fighting domestically through generous fiscal policies to help families. This is daft. Recognizing the right to life of the unborn in their constitutions will not mean much if abortion is declared a human right. Similarly, all the talk of helping families will be of little help if EU policy redefines the family. Boosting fertility is not going to stop EU-backed governments from putting parents against obscene sex education in prison. Social allowances for families won’t stop governments from taking children away from parents who won’t let their kids “change sex.”
Another common self-deception among conservatives is to think that UN agreements are not binding and don’t really matter because they cannot change their domestic laws and policies. They obviously have not been paying attention to how effectively the UN system has accelerated social changes globally. UN and EU bureaucrats seamlessly coordinate their actions with domestic bureaucrats to craft legislation and fund social change initiatives. The transgender movement that now engulfs the West was planted as a seed at the 1995 International Conference on Women in Beijing. Homosexual marriage was only a distant dream for the gay movement back then. The rapid advance of these destructive social norms is in large part a testament to the power and influence on education, media, and politics of multilateral institutions and the complex web of governmental and nongovernmental organizations they sustain.
Given how intertwined with the European Union Poland and Hungary have become, both socially and economically, they will not be able to close themselves off from these destructive social developments forever, especially if European nationalists are voted out of power, as is likely to happen eventually. You have to be blind not to see this coming. The secularist forces promoting the deconstruction of the family through EU and UN policy are tyrannical and want to quash religious dissent. The people of Poland and Hungary, who experienced the tyranny of communism, should know better. Appeasement should not be an option.
EU Pro-Abortion Foreign Policy
When asked about EU pro-abortion foreign policy, Polish and Hungarian politicians are quick to defend themselves behind bureaucratic smoke screens, and even a few rare—and infective—legal reservations to international agreements. But actions speak louder than words. Poland and Hungary have never once supported American pro-life diplomacy in UN negotiations or official UN meetings. Poland did not even support the U.S. in calling for deletion of “sexual and reproductive health” in UN Security Council resolutions as a member of the Council in 2019. Poland and Hungary are always aligned with the European Union against U.S. pro-life efforts.
Hungary proposed the addition of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” in the draft declaration of the Commission on the Status of Women in February 2020 on behalf of the European Union. Poland and Hungary have unwaveringly joined the EU in promoting this ambiguous abortion-related terminology for twenty years.
What’s most frustrating is the blatant diplomatic doublespeak from Poland and Hungary. Both nations joined a pro-life, pro-family, and pro-sovereignty press statement led by the U.S. government just outside the UN conference room where the General Assembly adopted an agreement on “universal health coverage” in September 2019. The statement denounced efforts to promote “sexual and reproductive health and rights” in UN agreements. Hungary and Poland then entered the official UN meetings and joined a statement from EU member states supporting “sexual and reproductive health and rights” as a core component of EU international policy, essentially betraying the American-led statement. The latter alone was their official position.
Sadly, even after Brexit, Poland and Hungary have not made a real attempt to change the EU’s foreign policy on life and family. Their politicians either don’t care enough or are unable to challenge their own foreign service bureaucrats. Consider how the EU bureaucracy and the organs and agencies it backs at the UN have been at the heart of the “She Decides” campaign against the U.S. government’s Mexico City Policy and diplomatic efforts to undermine the Helms Amendment in UN humanitarian policy. If Hungary and Poland had been interested in promoting life internationally, they should have adopted their own foreign aid pro-life policies to prevent EU support for abortion abroad. They have never done anything of the sort.
The most Hungary and Poland have ever done at the EU Council is to ask for “sexual and reproductive health” to be qualified by reference to past UN agreements that exclude an international right to abortion. But the very terms of the EU Council’s conclusions to which Hungary and Poland subscribe undermine those qualifications, and render them moot.
EU Attempts to Deconstruct the Family
When it comes to the family, Poland and Hungary similarly join the EU position of holding the world hostage until every country on Earth recognizes homosexual relations as equivalent to the family. For over a decade, the EU’s position in UN negotiations has been to refuse to mention “the family” at all in any UN agreement unless all UN member states recognize homosexual families as essentially equivalent to the natural family. It is a deliberate attempt to undermine and erode what binding international law says about the family by speaking of family “diversity.”
Just this February, Hungary and Poland joined the EU consensus in negotiations of the UN Commission for Social Development, where the EU tried to undermine the nuclear family.
At most, European nationalists adopt a defensive posture for domestic policy space. But they have never even tried to defend, let alone promote, positive norms about the family internationally, even though up to twelve of the twenty-seven EU-member states do not recognize homosexual marriages and even have constitutional clauses defining marriage in a traditional way. Moreover, marriage is understood to be wholly outside the purview of the EU’s competence. Even the European Court of Human Rights has recognized marriage in the European Convention on Human Rights as only between a mand and a woman.
Sadly, even when Poland and Hungary have sought to moderate the EU’s foreign policy, they have been ineffective. When the UN General Assembly voted to establish an EU-backed UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity in 2016, it was by the narrowest of margins. Poland and Hungary, alongside all EU member states, supported the mandate. But they did so on condition that the mandate holder would not intrude in the area of family law and policy, naïvely believing the EU and the mandate holder would abide by this restriction.
The UN Czar for LGBTQ issues has since pronounced himself in favor of gay marriage as a positive human rights development. He has also called on countries to repress religions that oppose LGBTQ rights, advocated a global ban on any therapy to help individuals deal with or overcome unwanted same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria, and generally promotes the entire LGBTQ agenda down to hate speech bans. Neither Poland nor Hungary has done or said anything about the independent expert’s work since that original reservation.
The Way Forward
In the wake of the recent elections, it is encouraging to see that Poland is looking to repudiate the intersectional Istanbul Convention on gender and to promote an international convention on the family instead. Perhaps it is a sign that Poland’s government is willing to take on Brussels. But Poland will need support from developing countries for the convention to go anywhere. And it will have to break the EU position on life and family to get them on board. Most developing countries are quite conservative socially and politically, and natural allies to the pro-life and pro-family cause. But they rely so much on EU assistance that they will not put themselves in jeopardy other than for grave political priorities. So long as the EU diplomatic machinery promotes the equivalence of all forms of family, there won’t be enough incentive for developing countries to cross the mighty diplomatic machinery of Brussels and Berlin. They will continue to stay silent in multilateral fora, and Poland’s efforts to promote a convention on the rights of the family will not go far, unless the convention promotes the equivalence of all forms of family.