EU and US criticise Poland’s Russia influence law

EU and US criticise Poland’s Russia influence law
The commission's timeframe covers two terms of the centrist government of Civic Platform (PO) headed by Donald Tusk in 2007-2015. / bne IntelliNews
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw May 31, 2023

The European Commission and the US State Department have condemned Poland for adopting legislation ostensibly designed to probe Russia’s influence on the country’s internal security but which could be used  to eliminate key opposition figures from running in the election later this year.

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”.

“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 European Commission is currently analysing this new law and will not hesitate to take immediate action as necessary,” the Commission said.

The US State Department said in a statement: “The US 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.” 

“We share the concerns expressed by many observers that this law to create a commission to investigate Russian influence could be used to block the candidacy of opposition politicians without due process,” it added.

“We call on the government of Poland to ensure this law 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,” the statement also read.

President Andrzej Duda signed off on the legislation on May 29 after it was passed by his former party Law and Justice (PiS) earlier this week. A political storm has ensued, with PiS officials rushing in to defend the law while the opposition has united in criticising it.

The new law establishes a commission which will have the power to bar individuals from receiving security clearance or “performing functions related to spending public funds” for a period of up to 10 years if the commission determines their decisions were influenced by Russia.

Both sanction types would effectively make it impossible to take up any important government post or even run in elections.

The commission will look at alleged instances of Russian influence that might have taken place between 2007 and 2022. The timeframe covers two terms of the centrist government of Civic Platform (PO) headed by Donald Tusk in 2007-2015.  Tusk later became president of the European Council.

The opposition fears the bill could be an attempt at eliminating Tusk from running in this autumn’s election under trumped-up allegations served up by the commission.

Tusk has been touring Poland for weeks canvassing support ahead of the election due this autumn. Some observers said that the public's perception of PiS targeting Tusk could boost the popularity of him personally and his party.