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UPDATE: Polish president greenlights Russian influence probe

29.05.2023 15:30
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said on Monday that he had decided to sign a disputed measure to establish a state commission for investigating alleged Russian influence in Polish politics, and called for a similar body to be created “at the European level.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Polish President Andrzej Duda. PAP/Radek Pietruszka

The president announced his decision at a media briefing in Warsaw on Monday morning, Polish state news agency PAP reported. 

The measure, proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, passed parliament on Friday on a final vote of 234 to 219, with one abstention, according to news outlets.

Duda, who is an ally of Poland's conservative government, told a news conference at the presidential palace that he "attached primary importance” to “the transparency of important public and political affairs,” the PAP news agency reported.

The president said that the public "should be able to assess the performance of its representatives," including “elected officials appointed to positions of high responsibility in the state.”

He added that voters should be entitled to “learn directly” about “how their representatives performed in those positions, if they understood Poland’s interests, how they understood them and whether these interests were implemented in an appropriate way.”

Duda announced: “And so I have decided to sign the bill, which was recently approved by parliament, to create a special state commission for investigating Russian influence on issues to do with Poland’s national security over the past two decades.”

The president also told reporters that he was sending the law to the Constitutional Tribunal "so it could assess those of its provisions that have raised concerns.”  

'A means of protecting Poland’s interests

Duda said: “I am confident that the transparency of action that will be taken by the commission’s members, the questions they will pose to those summoned before the commission, to the people who used to be responsible for our affairs, will be of key importance in combating various illegal lobbying activities, and attempts to influence Polish affairs and Polish interests.”

He added: “This is a means of protecting Poland’s interests.”

‘Russian influence should be investigated at the European level’

Duda also said that "the issue of Russian influence should be investigated at the European level,” and that he had asked Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki “to raise the topic at the European Council,” which brings together the European Union’s 27 national leaders.

The president argued that it was “no secret” that Russia had been seeking in various ways to influence the policies of other nations, “to control and dominate” these nations and make them “dependent” on Moscow.  

He added the issue was "being debated the world over."

Duda told reporters that he had "no doubt that the issue of Russian influence needs explaining."

He also said that the issue "should be investigated at the European level" and that he had asked the Polish prime minister to raise the issue at the European Council.

Duda argued that “a commission for investigating Russian influence should be created on the European level through a collective decision by EU member states and probe the issue of Russian influences, lobbying and money on a Europe-wide scale.”

Probe into 'Russian influence in Poland'

Under the law signed by Duda, the panel investigating "Russian influence in Poland" will "review administrative decisions, processes behind the creation, copying and sharing of information with third parties, and the management of public funds, among other areas," according to officials. 

The panel will also investigate measures taken to influence administrative decisions and the processes behind harmful policy decisions, the PAP news agency reported.

The commission’s powers will include the right to cancel administrative decisions "taken as a result of Russian influences," and it will also be able to ban officials from holding positions involving the management of public funds for up to 10 years, according to reports.

'A call for truth'

Polish opposition politicians said last week that the plan to establish the commission was 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.

Ahead of Friday's parliamentary vote, MPs held a stormy debate during which the Civic Coalition’s Borys Budka called the draft law “a disgraceful and Bolshevik bill.”

Lawmakers with the opposition Third Way alliance, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz and Paulina Hennig-Kloska, slammed the proposed panel as “a kangaroo court against the opposition” and called on the president to veto the legislation, according to the PAP news agency.

Meanwhile, conservative MP Łukasz Schreiber told the house on Friday that the commission was "not designed to target anyone" but represented "a call for truth, a call for us to respect and strengthen the constitution and sovereignty."

The governing conservatives 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.

Monday is day 460 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: PAP, gazetaprawna.pl

Click on the audio player above to listen to a report by Radio Poland's Michał Owczarek.