Polish president backtracks on ‘Russian influence’ panel

Polish president backtracks on 'Russian influence' inquiry
Source: Video Screenshot

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Friday backtracked on a new law creating a body to probe “Russian influence” after critics, including the European Union and the United States, voiced concern.

Just days after signing the law, Duda submitted an amendment to prevent the committee from imposing harsh penalties on individuals it investigates, saying “this eliminates much of the controversy around” the legislation.

Poland — a neighbour and staunch ally of Ukraine, which is battling Russia’s invasion — set up the committee to investigate citizens who may have succumbed to Russian influence.

Those found guilty could find themselves banned for 10 years from public positions relating to public finances and classified information, according to the legislation which Duda signed into law on Monday.

Critics argued that the measure, which the governing conservatives introduced just months before parliamentary elections, would be used to target opposition.

The European Union on Tuesday said it had “special concern” over the committee while the United States said the legislation “could be used to block the candidacy of opposition politicians without due process”.

Duda on Friday said that his amendment would do away with the penalties.

Instead, the committee would just issue a statement indicating that the person had succumbed to Russian influence and could not be guaranteed to properly work in the public interest.

Duda, who is allied with the governing conservatives, also said he proposed staffing the committee with experts instead of lawmakers or senators.

He called on parliament to adopt his amendment as soon as possible.

The Polish head of state’s change of course was met with derision from the opposition.

“He could have simply read the legislation and vetoed it,” said Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, from the main opposition party Civic Platform.

Leftist MEP Robert Biedron tweeted: “Duda should really consider a career in the circus”.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said there was no need to make any changes.

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