Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, is to be the first foreign dignitary announced to visit the White House since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Duda is currently in the midst of a re-election campaign. His trip will take place next week, on June 24, just four days before Poland goes to the polls.
Political observers say Duda has pushed Poland down an increasingly authoritarian path since taking power in 2015. Groups including Human Rights Watch have criticized the country’s direction and attempts to curb free expression.
During his re-election campaign, Duda has made a range of anti-LGBTQ statements, shamelessly playing up to homophobic sentiment among some Polish citizens.
In a recent campaign speech, Duda spoke out against the promotion of LGBTQ rights, saying it was an “ideology” more destructive than communism. He talked about how his parents’ generation had struggled against communist ideology for 40 years and “they didn’t fight for this so that a new ideology would appear that is even more destructive.”
Duda is an ally of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS), which promotes conservative, Catholic values and is against same-sex marriage. Earlier this month, Duda signed an election pledge promising that if re-elected, he would ensure gay people could not marry or adopt children. He would also ban the teaching of LGBTQ issues in schools.
Whist campaigning, he said, “Parents are responsible for the sexual education of their children,” and “It is not possible for any institutions to interfere in the way parents raise their children.”
According to the advocacy group ILGA, Poland is the worst-performing country in Europe when it comes to LGBTQ rights.
Over the past year, around a third of local governments in the country have passed resolutions declaring their regions to be ‘LGBT-free zones’. Adopting the resolution ensures they do not provide funding to nonprofits promoting gay rights.
By contrast, Trump’s last visit from a foreign leader was Ireland’s gay Taoiseach (the country’s equivalent to Prime Minister), Leo Varadkar. He visited on March 12, the day after the World Health Organization classified COVID-19 a pandemic.
In a statement released Wednesday, the White House said of Duda’s visit, “The visit comes at a critical time for both the United States and Poland, as we reopen our countries after months of battling the coronavirus pandemic.
“As close partners and NATO allies, the United States and Poland continue to expand our cooperation across a wide range of issues. President Trump and President Duda will discuss further advancing our cooperation on defense, as well as trade, energy, and telecommunications security.”