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Senior Polish member at EU body faces Belgian abuse probe

  • The EESC remains embroiled in harassment claims against a senior Polish official (Photo: EU)

Belgian authorities have been informed of a psychological harassment case against a Polish official seeking to become the president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), an EU institution that bills itself as a platform for civil society.

In an emailed statement on Tuesday (21 January), the EU's anti-fraud office Olaf told EUobserver that it had "concluded an investigation into alleged psychological harassment and inappropriate behaviour" by a member of the EESC.

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Olaf had also sent letters to notify the victims, two of which were seen by this website.

The letters named the alleged abuser as Jacek Krawczyk, a powerful figure within the Brussels-based EU institution who has managed to skirt allegations of harassment in the past despite numerous complaints.

One letter stated Olaf had passed on its findings to "Belgian judicial authorities for further consideration" and described the abuse as "psychological harassment", a criminal offence in Belgium.

"Please be informed that Olaf assessed Mr Krawczyk's behaviour towards you as serious misconduct," stated a second letter to a different victim, also seen by this website, and dated Monday (20 January).

The letters come at a tricky time for Krawczyk, who is one of two candidates set to be nominated on Wednesday for EESC top leadership.

Krawczyk in a post-publication statement sent on Wednesday said he had not seen the report itself and could not comment on the content, but that he intended to cooperate with an internal code of conduct panel at the institution.

"As I previously stated, I treat the whole case as a political attack - the timing converging with the elections in the Employers Group seems not to be random," he said.

He then accused one of the alleged victims, who posted a rebuttal on Twitter, as a purveyor of fake news.

Another victim, who asked not to be identified due to possible blowback, described the Olaf report and letter against Krawczyk as "a wake up call for the silent mass".

The contact said people have been afraid to speak out against Krawczyk for fear of retaliation, noting victims included a number of people who were staff and EESC members.

An emailed press statement from the EESC confirmed the institution had received a report "on allegations of moral harassment" but did not provide further details.

"Today the president has informed the bureau about this issue," added the press office.

The EESC is tasked to issue opinions on EU policy and is composed of three groups, each separately dealing with employers (Group I), workers (Group II), and diversity (Group III).

Krawczyk heads the employers' group, whose reach includes heavyweight lobbyists such as BusinessEurope.

The affair casts a shadow over statements made by EESC secretary-general Gianluca Brunetti, who recently declared a zero-tolerance policy on harassment in November.

He told MEPs there was a handful of alleged harassment cases and whistleblower reports in recent years.

"Two of these cases were joined, which led in practice to the opening of a total of two administrative inquiries in January 2019," he said.

The EESC, last year, also drafted a code-of-conduct in response to a slew of harassment revelations and the launch of a wider probe into the abuse by Olaf.

This article was updated on 22 January 2020 at 10:07 to include a statement from Jacek Krawczyk

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