WARSAW, Aug 20 (Reuters) - A group of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called on the European Commission to react to a mass arrest of LGBT activists in Poland, potentially escalating a conflict between the bloc and its largest eastern member over gay rights.
On Aug. 8, Polish police arrested 48 LGBT activists who were demonstrating against the detention of Malgorzata Szutowicz, or Margot, a non-binary activist accused of hanging flags on statues of Jesus and others and destroying a van belonging to an anti-abortionist.
"The European Commission has been particularly silent following the new attacks against the LGBT community in Poland," French MEP Pierre Karleskind said in a statement.
"The European Union cannot stand idly by in the face of this new provocation."
Karleskind said he had mobilised 64 MEPs to officially refer the matter to the European Union's executive arm.
Poland's ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) regard the movement for gay rights as an invasive foreign influence that threatens traditional values. The issue has become central to a wider culture war between religious conservatives and more liberal Poles.
On Tuesday, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said a Polish town that lost European Union funding after it set up a zone free of "LGBT ideology" will receive government financial support.
Karleskind said the group of MEPs had posed three formal questions to the European Commission, asking if it condemns the arrests, what concrete actions it plans to take concerning attacks against LGBTI people in Poland, and whether Poland had threatened to veto the EU budget if the Commission took action.
A PiS spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.
The European Commission did not immediately respond to an email asking for confirmation of receipt of the referral. (Reporting by Alan Charlish; Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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