Monday

11th Dec 2017

Tusk dragged into 'political' spy probe

  • Tusk is a witness in a probe over a cooperation accord between between Polish military counter-intelligence and Russia’s FSB spy service. (Photo: European Parliament)

Donald Tusk has appeared as a witness in what he called an “extremely political” probe into Polish-Russian intelligence cooperation.

The president of the European Council and former Polish prime minister, who was recently reinstated in his post despite fierce opposition by the Polish government, answered questions at a prosecutor's office in Warsaw on Wednesday (19 April).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Kaczynski has, for years, hurled unsubstantiated Smolensk accusation at Tusk. (Photo: pis.org.pl)

The probe concerns a cooperation accord between between Polish military counter-intelligence and Russia’s FSB spy service.

The agreement was signed in autumn 2013 but never entered into effect because of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The allegations come in the context of the 2010 Smolensk air disaster in which a former Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, and his entourage died en route to a World War II memorial event in Russia.

Lech Kaczynski’s twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who now heads the ruling Law and Justice party, has, for years, hurled unsubstantiated accusations that the disaster was a Russian plot and that Tusk, his political nemesis, was somehow involved.

The Polish prosecutor handling the 2013 FSB case has said that two former Polish spy chiefs said the intelligence accord was signed without Tusk’s knowledge.

But one of the former Polish spy chiefs has contradicted the prosecutor, saying that Tusk did give consent.

Wednesday’s hearing was held behind closed doors and Tusk told media afterward that he could not comment on details.

He added that the whole thing was part of the old Jaroslaw Kaczynski vendetta, however.

"The case is extremely political”, he said.

The affair also comes amid a clash between Law and Justice and EU institutions over the party’s alleged meddling in Poland’s judicial system.

The Law and Justice government last year passed a bill that made its justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, Poland's prosecutor general.

But if Wednesday’s hearing was designed to smear Tusk, it might have backfired.

Poland's opposition used the opportunity to portray Tusk as a hero.

Tusk travelled to Warsaw by train from his home in Sopot, a seaside resort on Poland’s Baltic Sea coast where he had spent Easter and where he was sent off to the capital by a crowd of supporters.

His fans crowded round him in Warsaw as he walked to the hearing and stayed outside the building while he answered questions.

He also signed autographs after the hearing as people sang birthday songs ahead of his 60th birthday on Saturday.

The jubilant scenes saw Law and Justice members complain that he had used the event to launch his presidential campaign.

Poland's "establishment wants to portray Donald Tusk as a victim and a mistreated politician”, Ziobro said.

Tusk is expected by many in Poland to run for the country’s highest office in 2020.

He did not rule out the move on Wednesday when asked about his intentions, but he said that, for the time being, he had other things on his mind.

A spokesman for the prosecutor also said Tusk was unlikely to be called back for another grilling in the 2013 FSB case.

But Law and Justice is already looking for other ways to bring Tusk to court.

Its defence minister, Antoni Macierewicz, said last month he had filed another complaint with Ziobro’s office which accused Tusk of “treason” over his handling of the Smolensk enquiry.

Russia conspiracy

The Russia conspiracy circus is losing its appeal among Law and Justice supporters, but it has helped to create a toxic climate in one of the EU’s largest member states.

The number of people who believe that Smolensk was not an accident has dropped since Kaczynki’s party came to power despite its repeated allegations.

It has also lost traction despite Law and Justice’s efforts to seize control of Polish public media.

That control was on show on Wednesday when Poland’s TVP broadcaster dedicated a long segment to the fact that one member of KOD, an opposition movement, who has been accused of trafficking women for prostitution, came to greet Tusk after the hearing.

KOD, an NGO, has organised mass-scale pro-democracy protests against Law and Justice.

It took over the role of Poland’s main opposition group after Tusk’s former party, the centre-right Civic Platform, fell into disarray.

If Tusk and KOD are the opposition’s main hope to challenge Kaczynski’s authority, that hope is far from certain, however.

KOD’s image has suffered among revelations that its leader, Mateusz Kijowski, payed himself hefty fees from the NGO’s budget.

'Disappointed' Poles

Tusk’s supporters on Thursday, including from KOD, numbered just a few hundred people.

An MP from another opposition faction, the liberal Nowoczesna party, also showed that the anti-Kaczynski camp is disunited.

Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus told the TVN24 broadcaster that 19 April should not have been used as “a day of greeting Tusk” because it had a more solemn meaning as the memorial day of the 1943 uprising against Nazi Germany in Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto.

A poll earlier this week showed to what extent the political punch-ups have damaged trust in Polish society.

The survey by Ipsos said 46 percent of Polish people felt “disappointed” by their politicians.

It said that 44 percent felt “angry” and that 33 percent were “afraid” of what might come next.

Tusk summoned again to Polish court

EU president said he may use diplomatic immunity to decline invitations to appear as a witness in Polish cases if they start to interfere with his work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level