Europe Insight

A Signal

What does the arrest of Mateusz Piskorski mean for Europe and Poland?

On 18 May in Poland, Mateusz Piskorski, leader of the political party Smena (“Change”) and head of the Еuropean Centre for Geopolitical Analysis, well-known for his pro-Russian opinions, was arrested on charges of espionage. He had obtained the most publicity when he led a group observing the referendum in Crimea.

Of course, one can suppose that Piskorski truly was arrested for spying in Russian or Chinese interests. However, even if this is the case, the only way for him to engage in reconnaissance activities could have been in the collection and analysis of open-source information as part of the work his centre does.

Being a scandal-ridden opposition politician with a virtually zero rating, hated and, to put it plainly, despised in his homeland by political players within and without the system alike for his extremely pro-Russian stance, Piskorski was kept as far as possible not only from national security secrets but, in general, from any sort of state-level decision-making processes.

Moreover, there are no doubts that Piskorski, as a “Kremlin apologist” has already long been under the observation of the Internal Security Agency, a circumstance about which he – clearly an intelligent person – knew perfectly well and for which reason did not engage in any spying activities. Consequently, his arrest is a purely political act.

The ruling Law and Justice party has already acquired a dim reputation in Europe for its judicial system and state-run media reforms, rearrangements in the army and ambiguous politics of history. The latest event just adds to the series of decisions bearing witness to the state apparatus’s increasingly severe attitude towards dissenters. The arrest may be considered an attempt to put pressure on and scare the already weak and unorganised opposition.

In addition, in the context of the preceding steps taken by the government, the event is seen as a prolongation of Poland’s rollback of the previous years’ democratic achievements. And although the European Union will hardly be interested in the fate of one pro-Russian politician, what will undoubtedly be noticed there amidst the wider circle of issues is that Warsaw continues abusing power.

Finally, Piskorski’s arrest brings one more comparison to mind. In fighting – as it seems to itself – against Russian influence, Poland is creating a new image for the disgraced politician, that of an innocent man unfairly persecuted, a martyr, a victim of the regime. In Russia, similar such persecution of politicians with abysmal ratings had the result of turning them into leaders of the opposition.

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