Keynote speech from Adam Bodnar, Law professor at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw, Poland: EU anti-discrimination laws in action: view from Poland
Adam Bodnar has a long track record in the field of human rights and anti-discrimination. He is well known as the Polish Ombudsman for Citizens’ Rights from 2015 until 2021. During his tenure he brought a number of local governments to court for their introduction of the controversial LGBT-free zones. He also worked for the Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and was a member of the board of directors of the UN Fund for Victims of Torture.
In his inspiring keynote speech he wanted to give the participants food for thought to consider the applicability of anti-discrimination law in Europe, by discussing the developments in Poland. He gave an overview of the applicable equality and non-discrimination laws and their application in the EU and its Member States, in which he referred to the fact that e.g. in Poland the government never undertook any actions to undermine laws that Poland had passed as implementation of the EU directives. He presented the dangers of the present illiberal pressure for democratic societies and for the protection of vulnerable groups. In his opinion, independent institutions are crucial to enforce anti-discrimination law. Any pressure on these institutions has an impact on the protection of rights. In Poland and other countries there is discriminatory legalism which results e.g. in unequal enforcement of the law in discrimination cases and lack of sufficient protection of victims by state institutions. To counteract this, equality bodies should e.g. support NGOs and victims of discrimination. After his presentation of the case study of the ‘LGBT-Free Zones’, he presented his perspectives on equality law in the EU. He inter alia emphasised the importance of the need for a new directive to strengthen the independence of equality bodies and the need for a ‘horizontal directive’ which would offer a more symmetric protection to victims of discrimination.