A commission created by the outgoing government to investigate Russian influence in Poland has issued a report recommending that leading opposition politicians likely to be part of the new government, including probable prime minister Donald Tusk, not be allowed to hold positions responsible for state security.
Tusk responded by dismissing the commission’s findings as a politically motivated attack. The opposition has always insisted that the purpose of the commission was to tarnish Tusk’s reputation and seek to exclude him from holding office.
In his first remarks since the ruling party lost its majority at Sunday’s elections, Jarosław Kaczyński has suggested that „external forces” – especially Germany and Russia – are behind the opposition parties now set to form a new government https://t.co/iHuHEMmUik
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 21, 2023
In October, the Law and Justice (PiS) party, which had ruled Poland since 2015, lost its majority at parliamentary elections and is now almost certain to be replaced in office next month by a new coalition government made up of three opposition groups and led by Tusk.
Today, the head of the Russian influence commission, Sławomir Cenckiewicz, unexpectedly announced that, because the new parliamentary majority was seeking to dismiss his body’s members, they were publishing an interim report based on their first three months of work.
At a press conference, Cenckiewicz said that they had found a number of concerns regarding cooperation between Poland’s Military Counterintelligence (SKW) Service and Russia’s Federal Security Service in the period 2010-14, when Tusk previously served as prime minister.
He claimed that, under Tusk’s oversight, an agreement was signed between the two agencies and that the SKW had fallen under Russian influence.
Komisja ds. rosyjskich wpływów rekomenduje, aby D. Tuskowi, J.Cichockiemu, B.Klichowi, B.Sienkiewiczowi, T.Siemoniakowi nie były powierzane stanowiska publiczne odpowiadające za bezpieczeństwo państwa. Ich zły nadzór doprowadził do nieprawidłowych działań SKW.(PAP)#PAPinformacje pic.twitter.com/tBSJ2GGt7E
— PAP (@PAPinformacje) November 29, 2023
Another member of the commission, Andrzej Zybertowicz – a longstanding advisor to President Andrzej Duda – declared that they had found concerns relating not only to Tusk but also four of his ministers at the time: Jacek Cichocki, Bogdan Klich, Tomasz Siemoniak and Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz.
“It was their shallow, perfunctory and unsystematic supervision that led to irregularities in the activities of the Military Counterintelligence Service that were documented in the report,” said Zybertowicz, quoted by state broadcaster TVP.
“The commission recommends not entrusting them with tasks, positions and public functions related to responsibility for state security,” he added. As well as Tusk being the likely prime minister in Poland’s next government, media reports indicate that Siemoniak will be defence minister and Sienkiewicz culture minister.
In response to the announcement, Tusk declared that he was “not at all surprised” by the accusations. “This is what the commission was supposed to do from the very beginning,” he added, quoted by the Polish Press Agency (PAP). “The whole case reeks of politics.”
The government’s majority in parliament has voted to appoint members of a commission tasked with investigating Russian influence.
The body was formed despite the EU warning Poland not to do so before elections and the opposition boycotting the process https://t.co/fX9ohvb7Tw
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) August 31, 2023
Legislation creating the commission was first signed into law by President Andrzej Duda in May. It immediately drew criticism from Brussels and Washington, in particular over the body’s power to ban individuals from holding public office for up to ten years.
That led Duda to propose changes watering down the commission’s powers – including removing its ability to exclude figures from office – just days after signing the bill. Those were approved by parliament and signed into law in July.
Despite the amendments, Council of Europe experts still warned that the commission threatens the fairness of elections and the European Commission urged Poland not to move forward with the plans.
Nevertheless, at the end of August, the then PiS majority in parliament voted to appoint all members of the commission, with most opposition parties boycotting the process.
Today, shortly after 8 p.m. local time, the new opposition majority in parliament voted to dismiss all members of the Russian influence commission.
The ruling party has pushed through changes to the commission investigating Russian influence.
It did so despite a @CoE expert report this week recommending the commission be scrapped entirely as it is „fundamentally flawed” and a threat to elections https://t.co/GqNgbgnh48
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 28, 2023
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Main image credit: European People’s Party/Flickr (under CC BY 2.0)
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.