Leaks an attempt to destabilise government, says Polish PM

Tusk refuses to call snap elections or fire ministers who made inappropriate comments

Donald Tusk said the person behind the secret recordings of his ministers’ conversation in Warsaw restaurants would be prosecuted. Photograph: Reuters

Donald Tusk said the person behind the secret recordings of his ministers’ conversation in Warsaw restaurants would be prosecuted. Photograph: Reuters

Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 01:00

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has attacked as an attempted “coup d’etat” the leak of secret recordings of his ministers, including forthright criticism of US and EU partners.

Mr Tusk said the person behind the material, recorded surreptitiously in Warsaw restaurants and being published by the weekly Wprost magazine, was “not working for the public good but to destabilise the government”.

“The Polish government will not be dictated to by people who illegally planted these bugs ... whether by ill-will, naivety, greed or to serve political interests,” said Mr Tusk, who has been in office since 2007 and is Poland’s longest-serving leader since the transition of democracy 25 years ago.

The leader of the liberal Civic Platform (PO) has refused opposition calls for a snap elections or to fire the ministers involved.

Prosecutions

Bringing forward elections due next year would, he said, create a “crisis in confidence” while his ministers’ “only crime is to make inappropriate comments during confidential conversations”. Instead, he said Polish authorities would prosecute those behind the recordings.

Foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski has gone further, claiming the tapes – in which he reportedly dismissed Warsaw-Washington ties as “worthless” – are the work of a foreign organised crime syndicate.

The revelations, a huge scandal even by the scandal-prone standards of Polish politics, come at an inopportune time for Mr Sikorski. The 51 year-old enjoys a high profile abroad, particularly during the ongoing Ukraine crisis, and was said to be in the running to succeed Catherine Ashton as the EU’s foreign policy chief.

His personal ambitions may have suffered a blow by a scandal which suggests the relative calm in Polish politics of late may have been an interlude rather than a new, more stable reality.

On the tapes, Mr Sikorski reportedly suggests the US-Poland alliance was based on his countrymen’s “shallow pride and low self-esteem”. In reality, he reportedly said, the bilateral relationship was “worthless” and even “dangerous” for creating a false sense of security that created conflict with Germany and Russia.

The recordings appear to have been made six months ago in three restaurants favoured by Poland’s political class. Initial investigation by the public prosecutor and ABW, the Polish intelligence service, has focused on the waiters working in the restaurants. Unconfirmed reports suggest there was a network in place to record conversations but, as yet, no firm evidence about who was behind the network and whether the recordings were made to order.

Wprost magazine has not revealed the identity of its source and has vowed to publish further material next week. Its premises were raided after it published a transcript suggesting the central bank president agreed to support the government in monetary policy decisions ahead of next year’s election.

Politicians warned

ABW said yesterday it had warned politicians for some time to watch their words in restaurants near the Polish Sejm, or parliament. It said it was concerned by contact between waiters and a Russian businessman, and feared involvement of intelligence services from Poland’s eastern neighbours.