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EU to challenge Poland over Russian influence law


BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Commission will take the first step in a legal challenge against Poland over a Polish law on undue Russian influence that critics says could result in banning opposition politicians from public office.

A Commission spokesperson said on Wednesday that a letter of formal notice would be sent to Warsaw on Thursday.

Poland’s minister for EU affairs, Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek, responded to the move by saying in a tweet that the goal of the law was to limit Russian influence in Poland and Europe and that democratic nations and institutions should unite around it.

“We will calmly provide the legal and factual arguments in this case after getting acquainted with the doubts of the European Commission,” he wrote.

President Andrzej Duda’s decision to sign the law has intensified concerns in Brussels and within the Polish opposition about what critics say is democratic backsliding in the EU’s largest eastern member.

Duda subsequently backpeddaled and proposed amendments that he said removed provisions which would allow people to be banned from office, but parliament is yet to deal with them.

In a sign of the mounting unease in Brussels, the presidents of five groups within the European Parliament sent a letter to the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights asking it to carry out a full-scale observation mission for the election.

The letter, dated June 6, cited the Russian influence law among a number of other factors such as “the structural lack of independence of the judiciary and media landscape”.

The U.S. government has also voiced concerns over the law, which would set up a commission to investigate Russian influence on policymaking between 2007 and 2022.

The liberal PO (Civic Platform), in government from 2007 to 2015, says the law is designed to destroy support for its leader and former prime minister Donald Tusk.

(Reporting by Marine Strauss, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and Alan Charlish in WarsawEditing by Gareth Jones)

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