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EU opens fresh case against Poland over Russian influence law

07.06.2023 18:00
The European Union’s executive has opened a fresh legal case against Poland over a disputed new law to investigate undue Russian influence in Polish politics, the latest in a series of rule-of-law disputes between Brussels and Warsaw.
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Poland’s parliament last month voted through a controversial plan to establish a special panel for investigating Russian influence in domestic politics, dismissing claims by critics that the law could result in banning politicians from public office.

The European Commission on Wednesday said it was taking the first step in a legal challenge against Poland over the new law, which has caused a public outcry and which Brussels says could be used to target opposition politicians in the run-up to Poland's parliamentary election this autumn.

"The College (of Commissioners) agreed to start an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice in relation to the new law on the state committee for examination of Russian influence," Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission's executive vice-president, said on Wednesday afternoon, as quoted by the euronews.com website.

The letter of formal notice will be sent to Warsaw on Thursday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

In a statement issued on May 30, the European Commission said it was "very concerned by the adoption of a new law in Poland creating a special committee to investigate Russian influence on the internal security of Poland between 2007 and 2022."

It added that "this new law raises concerns that it could be used to affect the possibility of individuals to run for public office, without fair trial."

'We will calmly provide legal and factual arguments': Polish gov't minister

Poland's minister for EU affairs, Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, responded to the move on Wednesday by saying that the law aimed to "limit Russian influence in Poland and Europe" and that democratic nations and institutions should unite around it.

"We will calmly provide the legal and factual arguments in this case after getting acquainted with the doubts of the European Commission," Szynkowski vel Sęk said in a tweet.

President Andrzej Duda's decision to sign the law at the end of last month intensified concerns in Brussels about what critics say is democratic backsliding in Poland, the Reuters news agency reported.

Duda at the start of this month proposed modifications to the controversial law on investigating Russian influence in Polish politics, saying that the commission of inquiry should not include lawmakers or have power to ban anyone from holding public office. 

But parliament is yet to deal with his amendment, news outlets reported.

The president told reporters last Friday that he was sending amendments to parliament because he was aware of the domestic and international criticism surrounding the law proposed by Poland's governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

He called on lawmakers to “approve them as soon as possible.”

The president said his amendments aimed to ensure that the probe is conducted by nonpartisan experts and that their findings would not ban anyone from holding public office.

He said he was also strengthening the right to appeal before a court for those under investigation.

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

The US State Department last month voiced concerns over the Polish law.

Polish opposition politicians have said the Russian influence probe is specifically targeted at former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is the leader of the country's largest opposition party, the liberal Civic Platform (PO).

A spokesman for the country's ruling conservatives said in late May that the new commission to investigate Russian influence in Poland could be appointed at the next session of parliament on June 9.


Source: IAR, PAP, TVP Info, Reuters, euronews.compolitico.eu