EU starts infringement proceedings against Poland over new Russian influence law News
EmDee, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
EU starts infringement proceedings against Poland over new Russian influence law

The European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against member state Poland on Thursday over the country’s recently-passed law aimed at officials who have allegedly come under Russian influence. The new law, nicknamed the “lex Tusk” after former Polish PM and purported target Donald Tusk, establishes a committee to investigate whether certain officials acted under “Russian influence” between 2007 and 2022. The law authorizes the committee to hand out 10-year bans from obtaining security clearances, controlling public funds and holding a firearms license as a consequence.

The European Commission says that the law “interferes with the democratic process” by potentially subjecting officials running for re-election to high-profile inquiries and asserts that the law may effectively ban candidates from public office. It also criticizes the law for broadly defining “Russian influence” and making the new committee’s findings of fact unreviewable by the courts.

The commission asserts the law violates articles 2 and 10 of the Maastricht Treaty; articles 7, 8 and 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; and the General Regulation on Data Protection (GDPR).

Polish President Andrzej Duda proposed amendments to the law on June 2 in response to international scrutiny. The amendments would make the committee nonpartisan, remove the committee’s ability to issue 10-year bans and make its findings reviewable by regular Polish courts.

Despite Duda’s suggested concessions, Donald Tusk and thousands of Polish protesters still took to the streets of Warsaw on Sunday, demonstrating against the Russian influence law and other government policies.

The EU also acknowledged Duda’s proposed amendments but still commenced infringement proceedings, noting that “the legal situation remains unchanged.”

Thursday’s proceedings are the latest example of the tension between the EU and Poland’s government. It comes days after the EU Court of Justice ruled that Poland’s recent judicial reforms violated EU judicial independence rules. In February, the European Commission referred Poland to the EU Court of Justice over Polish court decisions allowing the government to occasionally ignore EU laws.

The infringement proceedings also come as concern about Russian influence in Europe is on the rise. In March, Moldovan police arrested seven people accused of participating in a Russian plot to destabilize the country. Earlier in February, Moldovan President Maia Sandu accused Russia of trying to overthrow Moldova’s government in a coup.