The European Union and the United States have expressed concerns on Tuesday (30 May) over a new Polish law creating a body to probe “Russian influence”, which critics say Warsaw will use to target opposition.
The EU has “special concern” over the committee, which would have powers to block citizens from public office with no possibility of appeal to an independent court, the bloc’s justice commissioner said Tuesday.
The law pushed through by Poland’s ruling eurosceptic and nationalist PiS party comes in the middle of an election campaign before parliamentary elections in October.
Strongly criticised as unconstitutional by several judicial organisations, including the parliament’s own legal office, the law is widely seen as a way for the PiS, which will appoint all members of the committee, to ban top opposition politicians, including opposition leader Donald Tusk, from taking office if the PiS is ousted in the elections.
“We have a special concern now about the situation in Poland with the creation by law of a special committee able to deprive citizens, individuals, from their right to be elected to public office,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.
“It will be possible to do that with an administrative decision without any judicial review, so it is a special concern and the Commission will … not hesitate to take measures, if needed because it is impossible to agree on such a system,” he said on entering talks of EU ministers in Brussels.
Since 2017, Poland has been under a European Union procedure envisaged for countries which do not observe the rule of law, because the PiS party has been changing laws to gain influence over the country’s judicial system.
As a result, the EU has frozen the disbursement of EU funds for Warsaw until the principle of the independence of courts is observed.
In a separate statement late Monday, the US State Department said it was “concerned by the Polish government’s passage of new legislation that could be misused to interfere with Poland’s free and fair elections”.
It said it shared “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.”
On Monday, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the contested bill into law, enabling the creation of the commission that the opposition slammed as “anti-constitutional” and “Stalinist”.
The commission’s nine members, appointed by the lower house of parliament, will decide if individuals it investigates succumbed to Russian influence between 2007 and 2022 and impose harsh penalties.
The government has not provided for any appeal process for people found guilty, who could find themselves banned for 10 years from public positions relating to public finances and classified information.
(Edited by Georgi Gotev)
Read more with EURACTIV
Migrant group stuck at Poland-Belarus borderA group of migrants, including women and children, are stuck on Poland’s border with Belarus, Poland’s border guard said Monday (29 May) as activists accused the officers of blocking them from seeking asylum.