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EU blasts Poland over Russian interference law

EU blasts Poland over Russian interference law

by host

BRUSSELS — The EU indicated it may take legal action against a law in Poland designed to investigate Russian influence in Polish politics, but which could ban opposition figures from holding public office.

The EU joined a chorus of criticism, including from the U.S. and the Polish opposition, in saying that the ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party could use the law to intimidate political rivals ahead of an election later this year that is slated to be narrow.

“I can assure you that we will not hesitate to take immediate action as necessary when we see that there is space and need for such action,” the Commission’s Vice President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová said during a press conference on Tuesday.

The Czech politician raised the issue on the sidelines of an EU ministerial meeting in Brussels focused on an ongoing legal proceedings against Poland and Hungary over alleged rule-of-law breaches.

Brussels and Warsaw have repeatedly clashed on democratic principles, with the European Commission blocking millions in EU recovery cash over concerns that the Polish government is clamping down on the independence of courts.

Although the Polish government defended the controversial law as an attempt to root out the Kremlin’s agents in the country, critics warn that it may be used as a political weapon.

The law would create a commission that can ban people found to have been acting under the influence of the Kremlin from jobs involving the spending of public funds for a decade — in effect preventing them from running for office.

“We have a special concern now about the situation in Poland,” Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told reporters on his way into the EU ministers’ meeting. “A special committee able to deprive citizens of their right to be elected in a public office” forms the focus of concern.

The nine-member commission would be chosen by parliament where PiS has a slim majority, and its verdicts are final. It would be possible ban individuals from public office “with an administrative decision without any judicial review,” Reynders added.

In a rare move, the U.S. administration publicly criticized the plan from one of its top NATO allies in Eastern Europe.

“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,” wrote a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of State on Monday.

The Polish parliament narrowly approved the legislation on Friday after a heated debate. President Andrzej Duda confirmed on Monday that he intends to rapidly sign the bill into law.

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