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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Lex Tusk. Szydło: there is “such a committee” in the European Parliament. Not true

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PiS MEP Beata Szydło argues that the commission to investigate Russian influences, which is to be established on the basis of the “lex Tusk” act, will be a similar body to the commission operating in the European Parliament. This is not true, the differences are fundamental.

The narrative that in other countries – for example in France and Germany – there are similar committees to the one that is to be created in Poland on the basis of “lex Tusk”, is one of the most frequently repeated false messages from the ruling camp on the planned commission to investigate Russian influence. This is part of another comparison made by Beata Szydło, MEP from Law and Justice, during a conversation on June 1 on Polish Radio 24.

The journalist leading the program asked: “Perhaps the Prime Minister herself participates in a commission that explains Russian influences at the European level, so on the one hand it can be explained at the level of the European Parliament, but not in a member state?”. In this way, he referred to the Polish opposition protesting against the “lex Tusk” act and to the one organized on 30 May debate in the European Parliament on this topic. To this, the PiS MEP replied:

Of course, there is such a committee in the European Parliament. Today we will have, among other things, a debate on the report that the committee has prepared. This committee investigates external influences on democratic processes, including within the European institutions; among other things, it is about Russian influence. So this body is here, working.

Then she added that “such commissions, similar commissions also function in some other countries, for example in France, so it is nothing unusual.” The Polish one is to be created on the basis of the Act on the State Commission for the study of Russian influence on the internal security of the Republic of Poland in 2007-2022, which entered into force on May 31.

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Speaking of PE, Szydło had in mind Special Committee on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformationwhich has been operating since 2020. It was appointed for one year (short name: INGE) and then extended its mandate (ING2). The necessity of its creation was argued by the Parliament, inter alia: – foreign interference constituting a serious violation of the universal values ​​and principles on which the EU is founded; – malicious authoritarian state and non-state foreign actors using information manipulation and other methods to interfere with democratic processes in the EU; – a disinformation campaign conducted by Russia “of unprecedented aggressiveness and scale in order to mislead its own citizens in the country, as well as the entire international community.”

– Parliament decided that there are more threads, especially in the context of the upcoming European elections next year – explains Piotr Maciej Kaczyński, European affairs specialist from the Geremek Foundation, in an interview with Konkret24. The Commission has 33 members. In November 2022, Beata Szydło became its vice-president. The chairman is French MEP Raphael Glucksmann.

READ MORE: Extremely broad powers. What is hidden in “lex Tusk”

However, there are fundamental differences between this body and the Polish commission investigating Russian influence, which is to be established on the basis of the law called “lex Tusk”. “It’s like comparing an apple to an avocado just because it’s round,” says Piotr Maciej Kaczyński. We present what makes them different.

1. Area of ​​interest. Scanning the law, investigating phenomena – not tracking down public officials

The EP’s Select Committee on Foreign Interference is primarily intended to thoroughly scrutinize existing and planned EU legislation to detect loopholes and omissions that could be exploited for malicious purposes to interfere with democratic processes. It is to develop remedial recommendations and cooperate with other European Union institutions.

– The European Treaties talk about something called “right of inquiry”: the right to scan and check. The European Parliament takes advantage of this and sets up temporary committees. They always work for 12 months. These are either special commissions or investigative commissions. Special committees are about something bigger – covid, disinformation. They concern broader issues or phenomena. This is not about one case, a problem – explains Piotr Maciej Kaczyński.

– The special committee has control functions. It examines the role of non-state actors and the level of security. It has no authority to make any binding decisions or sanctions. It does not even have such powers as investigative committees – explains in an interview with Konkret24 dr hab. Magdalena Słok-Wódkowska from the Faculty of Law and Administration of the University of Warsaw, Center for Research on the System of the European Union.

On the other hand, the Polish commission investigating Russian influence will be focused on tracking down public officials who, when making decisions, were allegedly under Russian influence, and then punishing them. He is to present his first report on his work by September 17, ie during the current term of the Sejm and during the election campaign before the parliamentary elections. This would confirm the opposition’s allegations that the purpose of the special commission would be, among other things, to – as the leader of the New Left, Włodzimierz Czarzasty, said – “hunting for one guy”, i.e. Donald Tusk.

The European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference has met dozens of times so far. She discussed e.g. conspiracy theories related to vaccinations, migrants and climate change; reasons for and ways to fight disinformation; effects of foreign interference and disinformation; the role of social media. Committee representatives were in Washington, Athens, Taiwan.

In turn, the Polish commission is to deal only with the issue of Russian influence. The one in the EP can investigate any outside interference. For example, during last meeting cooperation between China and Russia aimed at disrupting democratic processes in Europe was discussed.

2. Legal basis. Applicable regulations, EU law – not a dedicated law that violates the constitution

– The Polish Influence Committee and the Special Committee of the European Parliament differ primarily in their legal basis. There is no separate legal basis in the European Parliament. In the case of the Polish commission, this is the basis – explains dr hab. Magdalena Słok-Wódkowska.

The commission examining Russian influence in Poland will operate on the basis of the “lex Tusk” act, which is dedicated only to it. In addition, as we explained violates many articles of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. The EP’s special committees operate on the basis of general provisions – the Treaties and Art. 207 Rules of the European Parliament and EP decision.

READ MORE at KONKRET24: Which articles of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland are violated by the “lex Tusk” act

3. Possibility of penalties. No power to punish vs remedial

“Lex Tusk” provides that the commission may order countermeasures against persons deemed to have made decisions under Russian influence: withdrawal of security clearance for 10 years (i.e. depriving access to secret documents); 10-year ban on performing functions related to the disposal of public funds; revoking a firearms license or issuing a firearms ban for a period of up to ten years.

The experts we spoke to emphasize that the EP Select Committee has no power to punish anyone. It is not concerned with pointing out, much less judging, the guilty ones. – Can’t impose any sanctions. The committee in the European Parliament mainly collects information. Prime Minister Szydło herself mentions this in the quoted statement, notes Dr. Hab. Magdalena Słok-Wódkowska. – There are no penal effects – confirms Piotr Maciej Kaczyński.

4. Rights of persons summoned by the commission. There is no obligation to appear, there is no punishment – and we have punishments and bringing them by force

Already we described in Konkret24, a citizen summoned before a commission appointed on the basis of “lex Tusk” can … not much. He has to show up and testify. If you refuse, you will face a fine of 20,000. PLN, then 50 thousand. PLN, and even forced detention by the police and forcibly brought to the committee meeting. The penalty decision cannot be appealed to any court. You can only ask the committee to change its mind. According to Professor Maciej Gutowski from the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań, a constitutionalist and lawyer, the “lex Tusk” act deprives the citizen of almost all possibilities of defense and disables procedural guarantees.

READ MORE IN KONKRET24: A citizen summoned before the commission with “lex Tusk”. What can it do? Few

The case of the EP Select Committee is completely different. – The European Parliament’s special and inquiry committees are toothless. For example, there is no obligation to appear before them. Then there are no criminal repercussions for anyone – explains Piotr Maciej Kaczyński from the Geremek Foundation.

5. Work period. One year renewable – not indefinitely

As we wrote above, special committees in the EP are appointed for one year with the possibility of extending the mandate. This is also the case with the special commission for foreign interference.

The Polish commission investigating Russian influence will not be a parliamentary investigative commission. It will be appointed pursuant to an act dedicated to it – which means that, unlike the Sejm investigative committees, whose work is completed at the end of a given term of office of the Sejm, the date of completion of its work is not specified.

6. Final effect. Findings and recommendations – not information about decisions and applied penalties

The EP special committee concludes its work with a final report containing factual findings and recommendations. In the one adopted in March 2022 document urged the EU to implement a special sanctions regime to counter foreign interference and disinformation campaigns by foreign powers.

The commission investigating Russian influence in Poland is to publish annual activity reports containing: descriptions of identified cases of activities; information on issued administrative decisions and remedies applied therein; conclusions and recommendations for institutions.

Author:Jan Kunert, Krzysztof Jablonowski

Main photo source: Eric Vidal/European Parliament

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