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US, EU concerns over Poland’s Russian influence probe have 'no basis' in fact: gov’t spokesman

30.05.2023 20:00
The Polish government spokesman said on Tuesday that concerns expressed by the United States and the European Commission over Poland’s new commission to probe Russian influence had “no basis" in fact, denying claims that the panel could ban politicians from holding public office without due process.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Mller.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller.PAP/Piotr Nowak

Piotr Müller made the statement in a media interview on Tuesday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

On Monday, Poland's President Andrzej Duda announced  that he had decided to sign a disputed measure calling for the establishment of a state commission to investigate alleged Russian influence in Polish politics.

Duda also said on Monday that he was sending the law, proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, to the country's Constitutional Tribunal "so it could assess those of its provisions that have raised concerns.”

US, EU express concern over Polish probe into Russian influence

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Monday that "the U.S. Government is concerned by the Polish government’s passage of new legislation that could be misused to interfere with Poland’s free and fair elections."

The US State Department also called on the government of Poland to ensure the law to create a commission to investigate Russian influence “does not preempt voters’ ability to vote for candidate of their choice and that it not be invoked or abused in ways that could affect the perceived legitimacy of elections."

Meanwhile, the European Union’s executive Commission said on Tuesday it was concerned by the law and would not hesitate to take action, if necessary, the Reuters news agency reported.

“This new law raises concerns that it could be used to affect the possibility of individuals to run for public office, without fair trial,” the Commission said in a statement. 

US, EU concerns ‘have no basis in legislative reality’: Polish gov’t spokesman

Commenting on the statements by the US State Department and the European Commission, the Polish government spokesman said on Tuesday: “It is evident from these responses that they are unfortunately based on information that has no basis in legislative reality.”

Speaking in an interview with private broadcaster Polsat News, Müller said that, under the law, the main decisions of the commission to investigate Russian influence, such as banning individuals from holding public office, “will be subject to control by the courts.”

He added that “the commission has no powers to restrict the right of individuals to run for parliament.”

The government spokesman noted that earlier on Tuesday Poland’s foreign ministry issued a statement on the new law, saying that "the Committee's work will not limit voters' ability to vote for their candidates in elections," but "on the contrary – it will provide the public with wider access to information about matters crucial to national security."

Müller told Polsat News: “Our intention is to investigate Russian influence in Poland. Similar probes into Russian influence are already under way in France and in one of the German states. Another was carried out in Britain. And so it’s worth it to calm things down.”

He added: “I don’t understand why the opposition is kicking up such a storm. I thought we all shared the aim of analysing the extent of influence Russia had in our country.”

'No doubt that the issue of Russian influence needs explaining': Polish president

Poland’s president on Monday approved the bill to set up the state commission into Russian influence, after it passed parliament on Friday on a final vote of 234 to 219, with one abstention, Polish state news agency PAP reported. 

The president, who is an ally of Poland's conservative government, told reporters that he had "no doubt that the issue of Russian influence needs explaining."

Meanwhile, Polish opposition politicians have slammed the planned probe, saying it is specifically targeted at former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is the leader of the country's largest opposition grouping, the Civic Coalition, ahead of parliamentary elections in the autumn.

The governing conservatives have denied the inquiry is designed to target the opposition.

They have accused Tusk of having been too friendly toward Russia as prime minister from 2007 to 2014 and of making gas deals favourable to Moscow before he went on to become the president of the European Council, a top EU job that he held until 2019, Britain's The Independent newspaper has reported.

US concerns 'based on insufficient analysis': Polish presidential aide

Ruling party spokesman Rafał Bochenek told reporters on Monday that “the proceedings of the state commission … will be supervised by the courts, and if the commission’s decisions are appealed against, they will require a final ruling by the administrative court" to take effect.

Marcin Przydacz, a senior aide to the Polish president, said on Tuesday that the US administration's concerns over Poland’s new commission into Russian influence were "based on insufficient analysis” of the panel’s powers.

Tuesday is day 461 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: PAP, Reuters, ec.europa.eu