Wednesday

24th May 2017

Focus

Polish FM said to have called US ties 'worthless'

  • Radek Sikorski - his name has often appeared in connection with the EU foreign policy post, up for grabs later this year (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Poland may be heading for early elections if an ongoing eavesdropping scandal continues to grow, with foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, seen as in the running for a top EU job, now caught up in the affair.

Sikorski was apparently caught rubbishing relations between Warsaw and Washington, according to tapes published by weekly magazine Wprost.

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He told to Jacek Rostowski, then finance minister, that relations with the US create a false sense of security in Poland and cause conflicts with Germany and Russia. "The Polish-American alliance is worthless," he said, according to the tapes.

"We'll think that everything is super, because we gave the Americans a blow job. [We are] losers. Complete losers," said Sikoski, who has often been mentioned as a potential successor to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

He described the Polish attitude toward the US as "murzynskosc", which can be translated roughly as "like negroes" or more politely as "negritude".

"The problem in Poland is that we have very shallow pride and low self-esteem," he added.

According to the tapes, Rostowski agreed to support Sikorski in his campaign to become EU energy commissioner. In return, Sikorski promised to get Rostowski the top place on the EU election list for his constituency.

The conversation between top officials in Poland’s ruling party Civic Platform (PO) allegedly took place in one of the Warsaw’s restaurants in January.

The scandal started a week ago when Wprost published the first portion of secretly taped conversations between politicians.

They appeared to reveal that in July 2013 internal affairs minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz asked the head of the central bank for support in financing the budget deficit if the economic situation and ruling party polls were to worsen.

Central banker Marek Belka, in turn, asked for the dismissal of Rostowski (which happened in November).

Tapes recorded in restaurants

According to Wprost there are hundreds of hours of tapes recorded in different restaurants. The weekly says that they got some of them by e-mail from a businessman.

An investigation is underway into who was part of the taping.

According to leaks from prosecutors, some waiters were involved (one has already been charged), but it is not known who might have asked them to do it. Some commentators blame the opposition, some blame other sources – such as foreign secret services or business lobbies.

Investigators raided Wprost's office on Wednesday (18 June) to get the recordings, but after some hours they were forced to retreat amid protests by journalists from different newspapers. Wprost passed the tapes to the prosecutors the next day.

At the beginning prime minister Donald Tusk tried to play down the crisis and claimed that internal affairs minister Sienkiewicz and central banker Belka did not break the law.

But as the scandal evolved he was forced to change his position.

On Thursday, Tusk said he did not rule out Sienkiewicz's dismissal and for the first time said that should the political crisis escalate, early elections might follow.

Opposition parties are calling on the government to step down. They have also filed a motion for a parliamentary inquiry.

However an early election is unlikely to happen soon. The PM is seen as wanting to discipline his party and the governing coalition by raising the possibility.

But this strategy will depend on subsequent recordings. If nothing too substantial is revealed, Tusk may be able to regain control of the situation and defend his cabinet before parliament.

In the long run, much also depends on the poll ratings of Tusk’s PO.

If they take a dive due to the wiretapping scandal, the prime minister will find it hard to maintain a safe majority in parliament.

The next electoral test is meant to be local elections in November. If PO loses these, the government may not last until the general election scheduled for autumn 2015.

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