Poland's conservative government blocked EU plans to create a
European day against the death penalty, saying any such event
should also condemn abortion and euthanasia.
At a meeting of EU interior and justice chiefs, Polish ministers sunk proposals to mark on October 10 the long-standing abolition of capital punishment in the 27-nation bloc, by demanding a wide debate on the issue.
"We believe that abortion and euthanasia are threats to our societies. If we discuss the death penalty, we should approach the subject in a broader way and debate the protection of life," deputy Polish Justice Minister Andrzej Duda told reporters.
Poland's Roman Catholic ruling Kaczynski twins - Lech, the president, and Jaroslaw, the prime minister - have said they are personally in favour of the death penalty, although they do not plan to reinstate it.
"I don't think next October 10 we will have a celebration of the day against the death penalty," Italian Justice Minister Clemente Mastela told a news briefing, calling Poland's action arrogant and its arguments weak.
Italy has led an international campaign for a moratorium on the death penalty and strongly supported the proposed EU day.
Poland was the only member state to voice opposition to the plan during an informal debate, but EU president Portugal decided not to put it to a vote since unanimity was required.
The dispute had become emblematic of tense relations between Warsaw and Brussels in the run-up to Poland's early parliamentary election on October 21.
"Now its is really difficult. Now it is a very sensitive political moment for Poland, there is a quite significant event in a few weeks," EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini said.
The Kaczynskis' Law and Justice party, which won power two years ago, is campaigning on a traditional pro-family platform and promises to root out corruption.
It also receives support from the staunchly Catholic and anti-EU
Poland, along with Ireland and Malta, bans abortion on demand, and its priests and politicians often condemn what they call a culture of death permitting euthanasia in countries such as the Netherlands.
Portuguese Justice Minister Alberto Costa said in the light of Poland's opposition, the presidency would look for another way to celebrate the abolition of the death penalty in the bloc.