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Poland’s Russian influence probe debated in European Parliament

01.06.2023 07:30
Eurodeputies with Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party defended a planned Polish public inquiry into Russian influence during a debate in the European Parliament on Wednesday, saying the probe was needed to rid their country of Russian links.
Beata Szydło.

The European Parliament held a debate on Wednesday evening to discuss a controversial new Polish law setting up the inquiry, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.

The first to take the floor was the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, it said. 

Reynders told MEPs that the EU’s executive Commission had “serious concerns” about the new Polish law and its “compliance with EU law” as “the state commission for the examination of Russian interference in the internal security of Poland” could be used “to affect the possibility of individuals to run for public office,” and therefore “to limit their rights.”

The EU commissioner said he discussed the issue with Poland’s Minister for European Affairs, Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, a day earlier.

Reynders added: “And today, as a follow-up, I sent a letter to the minister, requesting additional information. It will be important for our assessment to decide on possible next steps.”

Polish opposition MEPs slam Russian influence probe 

Andrzej Halicki, a MEP with Poland’s opposition Civic Platform (PO) party, said the planned Russian influence probe “is a special new tool … for the authoritarian government that knows it is losing the support and trust of the public, yet it seeks to cling to power.” 

Halicki added that the Polish ruling coalition sought to "eliminate the opposition from public life … because it is afraid of losing” parliamentary elections in the autumn.

Polish opposition MEP Radosław Sikorski, a former foreign minister, said the new Polish state commission into Russian influence offered “no possibility of appeal” and would “restrict democratic rights.”

'Why are you defending Russian influences?'

Meanwhile, conservative MEP Beata Szydło, a former Polish prime minister, said, addressing Polish opposition lawmakers: “Why are you opposing the establishment of a commission that is similar to those already functioning in other countries and here at the European Parliament? Why are you defending Russian influences? Why aren’t you standing up for the interests of Polish citizens whom you are supposed to represent?”

Szydło told the European Parliament that the commission into Russian influence "does not violate the Polish constitution and Polish law." 

She further declared that the Polish law authorizing a probe into alleged Russian interference in her country's internal security “does not violate the constitution,” Polish state news agency PAP reported.

Szydło told the EU’s Reynders: “According to EU treaties, issues to do with the justice system are the prerogative of sovereign member states.”

She added: “It’s a good thing that this commission has been set up in Poland, because the debate tonight has demonstrated that Russian influences are very strong."

Russian influence probe 'even more needed' in European Parliament: MEP

Polish conservative MEP Patryk Jaki told the chamber: “The fact that you’re seeking to prevent the work of the commission into Russian influence in Poland doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s because you realise such a commission would be even more needed here, at the European Parliament.”

Jaki said that many European countries “continued to do business with Russia” even “after Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in 2014."

He added: "You were selling arms to Russian President Vladimir Putin, you built the Nord Stream pipelines, and Putin was bribing your politicians."

'The commission meets all democratic criteria'

Another conservative Polish MEP, Beata Mazurek, said the planned Russian interference probe was “part of efforts to eradicate the influence of Russian agents from public life.”

She added: “The commission meets all democratic criteria. It will operate on the basis of law, just like every public institution.”

The European Parliament discussed the Polish law at the request of the Christian Democratic European People’s Party (EPP) grouping, which was supported by the chamber’s socialist, liberal and green groupings, the IAR news agency reported.

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

Poland's President Andrzej Duda on Monday signed a disputed measure authorizing the establishment of a state commission to investigate alleged Russian influence in Polish politics.

Duda told reporters that he was sending the law, proposed by Poland's 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.”

The measure passed parliament last Friday on a final vote of 234 to 219, with one abstention. 

The president, who is an ally of Poland's conservative government, said on Monday 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.

Thursday is day 463 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: IAR, PAP, tvp.info