Polish investigation into “Russian influence” angers the European Union

Polish investigation into “Russian influence” angers the European Union

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Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told reporters that the European Union would scrutinize the new commission closely

The European Union has threatened action against Poland, after MPs approved a new commission that could bar people from public office because of their links to Russia.

Last week, the Polish parliament agreed that the committee should investigate alleged Russian interference between 2007 and 2022.

But critics say the commission, which will be dominated by government MPs, is designed to attack opposition leader and former prime minister Donald Tusk.

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said the commission was a “particular concern”.

The commission would have the power to issue a 10-year ban from managing public funds — in effect, barring them from holding national office — to anyone found guilty of acting under “Russian influence.”

In particular, it will investigate gas deals signed with Russia, which the government says have left the country overly dependent on Moscow.

The 10-member panel is expected to be dominated by MPs from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and could present its first report as soon as possible, the reports say.

Renders told reporters in Brussels that the EU Commission “will analyze the legislation and will not hesitate to take action if necessary”.

“It is impossible to agree on such a system without real access to justice for an independent judge against an administrative decision,” he added.

Mr Tusk is now the party’s president and leader, although he is not an MP, and is expected to challenge Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in an election later this year.

The leader of the parliamentary programme, Krzysztof Brejsa, called the new committee a “Soviet-style idea” and accused the government of “organizing a witch hunt against and eliminating Donald Tusk” before the election.

But Morawiecki defended the law, accusing Tusk of having something to hide.

“There is nothing to be afraid of,” said Mr. Morawiecki, adding: “Why is this esteemed opposition of ours, especially Mr. Tusk, afraid of setting up a committee to check Russian influence?”

On Monday, the US ambassador to Poland, Mark Brzezinski, said he feared the commission might “reduce the ability of voters to vote for whom they want to vote for.”

But Poland’s foreign ministry insisted on Tuesday that “any party subject to a committee’s decision will have the right to appeal” and said the committee “will not limit the ability of voters to vote for their candidates in the elections.”

Warsaw is already locked in a protracted battle with the European Union over reforms to the justice system, which led to the bloc suspending billions of euros in aid to Poland in January.

Law and Justice has also been accused of rolling back other civil liberties, including freedom of the press, and opposition lawmakers say Poland risks becoming an authoritarian state if the government is re-elected.

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