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US, EU raise concerns over Poland’s ‘Russia influence’ committee

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The European Union and the United States have expressed concerns over a new Polish law creating a body to probe “Russian influence,” which critics say Warsaw will use to target opposition.

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The EU has “special concern” over the committee, which would have powers to block citizens from public office, the bloc’s justice commissioner said Tuesday.

Brussels is worried the new panel could be used against independent judges in Poland, and the European Commission “will not hesitate to take measures if it’s needed,” commissioner Didier Reynders said.

In a separate statement late Monday, the US State Department said it was “concerned by the Polish government’s passage of new legislation that could be misused to interfere with Poland's free and fair elections.”

It said it shared “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.”

On Monday, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the contested bill into law, enabling the creation of the commission that the opposition slammed as “anti-constitutional” and “Stalinist.”

The commission’s nine members, appointed by the lower house of parliament, will decide if individuals it investigates succumbed to Russian influence between 2007 and 2022 and impose harsh penalties.

The government has not provided for any appeal process for people found guilty, who could find themselves banned for 10 years from public positions relating to public finances and classified information.

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