The decision to ban Lyudmyla Kozlovska, the Ukrainian head of an NGO, from entering Poland does not have a justifiable basis, the country’s top administrative court has ruled.
Kozlovska has been unable to enter Poland for the last five years on unspecified security grounds. She has always denied that there is any proper basis for her expulsion, claiming instead that the decision is political and linked to her and her Polish husband’s criticism of the government.
In 2018, Kozlovska – who is president of the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF) – was entered into the Schengen Information System (SIS) by the head of Poland’s Internal Security Agency (ABW). That in theory meant she was banned from entering most European Union member states.
However, a number of other countries – including Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland and the UK – allowed her to enter nevertheless. Indeed, Kozlovska was invited to speak in the European Parliament and German Bundestag, among other places.
Her foundation, which has offices in Brussels, Warsaw and Kyiv, was founded in 2009 to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law in post-Soviet states but has in recent years also focused more on “Poland and other EU member states affected by illiberal policies implemented by their populist governments”.
Eventually, her name was removed from SIS but she remained barred from entering Poland, reports Gazeta Wyborcza. In a situation that the newspaper describes as “Kafkaesque”, Kozlovska has never been informed of the specific reasons for her ban, making it difficult to mount any kind of defence.
At the time when her ban was introduced in 2018, a spokesman for Poland’s foreign ministry told Associated Press that it was “for reasons of defence, national security or public order”. Claims that it was due to her “anti-government activities are hugely exaggerated”, he added.
Kozlovska sought to have the ban overturned, but last year the provincial administrative court in Warsaw ruled against her. It supported the decision by the head of Poland’s Office for Foreigners that Kozlovska’s presence in Poland would be undesirable.
However, she appealed against that decision to the Supreme Administrative Court (NSA) – the highest authority on such issues – which yesterday ruled in her favour.
Having been granted access to the classified materials used to justify Kozlovska’s entry ban, the NSA’s judges ruled that the documents do not provide a sufficient basis to conclude that she poses a threat to state security, announced ODF.
The foundation has always claimed that the material used by the Polish authorities to justify her ban was likely based on false information from Moldova, Kazakhstan and Russia.
In 2019, The Times published a report based on evidence from Moldova’s parliament suggesting that ODF had received £1.5 million of money “linked to Putin” and laundered through Scotland.
Kozlovska has rejected the claims in The Times’ article, which she says “was written by a PR company and based on a fake report of the Moldovan parliament controlled by oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc”.
In July this year, a Warsaw court ordered deputy interior minister Maciej Wąsik to apologise to Kozlovska, her husband and ODF for accusing them of having connections to Russia and of conducting “hybrid activities”. The judge in the case found “no evidence” to support Wąsik’s claims, reported Onet.
The latest ruling by the NSA means that Kozlovska is “back to square one” and can apply again for permission to reside in Poland, her lawyer, Joanna Koch, told Gazeta Wyborcza.
Kovlovska herself, however, told the newspaper that she believes the Polish authorities will “prepare new classified ‘information’ about me, which will form the basis for another politically motivated refusal”.
In 2017, her husband, Bartosz Kramek, published a guide to civil disobedience against Poland’s national-conservative government. Kramek, who is a member of OSF’s board, has been regularly involved in various forms of protest against the Polish authorities.
Last year, Kramek was detained on charges relating to alleged false certifications linked to invoices for 5.3 million zloy in funds, some of which were allegedly transferred to ODF. He denies the accusations and has been released on bail.