Since its founding in 2009 and until 2017, the Open Dialogue Foundation was active solely in the field of defending human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the post-Soviet area, focusing its efforts mainly on Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and – since 2016 – Moldova. It saw the peak of its activities and prominence during the 2013-14 Euromaidan revolution (or “Revolution of Dignity”) in Ukraine and in the years following it, when ODF employed around 50 staff members, provided hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid for Ukrainians affected by the Russian aggression and operated the “Ukrainian World” centre on Warsaw’s prestigious Nowy Świat street.
Following the coming to power of Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice (PiS) party and its president Andrzej Duda in 2015, the state of the rule of law and democracy in Poland steadily deteriorated, as universally acknowledged by the international community, including the first ever launching of the EU’s “Article 7” procedure for serious rule of law breaches in a Member State.
In reaction to the growing threats to the rule of law in Poland and amidst mass protests in defence of independent judiciary in July 2017, the Foundation’s Chairman of the Board and husband of ODF President Lyudmyla Kozlovska, Bartosz Kramek, became involved – in his personal capacity (and occasionally accompanied by his wife) – in the so-called street opposition movement against the unconstitutional seizure of the judiciary by the Law and Justice government.
Apart from taking part in street protests in defence of independent judiciary (widely covered by international press) together with other ODF representatives, on 21 July 2017 he posted an article on his personal Facebook page entitled “May the state stop: let’s shut down the government!”, calling for various civil disobedience actions in defence of the rule of law in Poland. The same day, the Foundation issued its official statement defending the threatened separation of powers and endorsing the protests, as well as shared Bartosz Kramek’s post on its Facebook page.
Within days, the Law and Justice government, its politicians and supportive media began a campaign aimed at subverting and dismantling the Foundation, or at minimum tarnishing its reputation. This has been confirmed as a conscious, coordinated attack through numerous statements of Law and Justice officials, up to the current and former foreign ministers and Prime Minister Beata Szydło herself. The pinnacles of these attacks, as of January 2019, have been the banning by Poland of ODF President and Bartosz Kramek’s wife Lyudmyla Kozlovska from the EU, as well as a series of actions taken by the security services and fiscal authorities aimed at crippling the Foundation.
The attacks on ODF are in no sense an isolated phenomenon. As part of Law and Justice’s assault on the foundations of Polish democracy, the country’s civil society has been under increasing pressure and direct attacks from the government administration and state media.
Most notably, non-governmental organisations and their activists, critical of the state authorities, such as Obywatele RP (Citizens of the Republic of Poland), Komitet Obrony Demokracji (Committee for the Defence of Democracy – KOD), Obywatele Solidarni w Akcji (Citizens Solidary in Action), Akcja Demokracja (Action Democracy) and various women’s rights organisations have all been subjected to persecution following their objection to the government’s plan of judicial reform and involvement in
peaceful civil society protests.
We therefore aim to examine the attacks on ODF as an example of a wider campaign by the Polish ruling party to subjugate and weaken civil society, thus strengthening its grip on power and securing its longevity. We examined those attacks in more detail in our other reports, most notably “Information on unprecedented attacks on civil society organisations in Poland” as well as “Unprecedented attacks on the Open Dialogue Foundation in Poland”.
Below we list the most striking actions taken against the Foundation by the current government, Law and Justice politicians, state and other pro-government media.
2. Defamation and intimidation campaign
Controlled by the ruling party, Polish public television, TVP, has launched a massive defamation and slander campaign against civil society organisations including ODF and, more broadly, all independent, citizen-led initiatives. The campaign is based on manipulations, half-truths and claims which do not correspond to reality. Organisations critical of the government are accused of artificially provoking protests in defence of courts and the Constitution, manipulating public opinion with money from abroad.
The image of an external enemy is fostered and key activists are portrayed as foreign agents (incl. ODF President Lyudmyla Kozlovska), traitors of the homeland (incl. Chair of ODF’s Board Bartosz Kramek), or puppets in the hands of foreign powers and governments (e.g. George Soros, Russia, and even Germany and the Brussels elites).
Actions aimed at subjecting NGOs to special supervision, including investigations into them by special services and limiting their access to foreign funding, have been discussed publicly, also by key ministers of the Polish government.
Civil society organisations are accused of having the intent of provoking a bloody revolution (so-called Maidan) and overthrowing the government in order to achieve the interests of foreign states and other foreign actors.
In the past the Foundation had been sending non-lethal and protective equipment, such as bulletproof vests and helmets, to Ukraine, and, in order to do so, obtained a legally required special licence from the state authorities. This is used by pro- government media and PiS politicians to justify accusations of the Foundation dealing with arms trade, which would, allegedly, serve to provoke a Polish Maidan.
To justify the continuing accusations appearing in state media (TVP and Polish Radio), as well as in pro-government press, their authors often used information taken from foreign sources in Moldova, Romania, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. These sources not only should be approached with distrust by any journalist verifying them (as they are obliged to do by Polish law), but many of them are well known for spreading disinformation and Russian propaganda.
Furthermore, Polish authorities seem to have cooperated closely with, and used intel from, security services of foreign states known for using these services as a political tool, both internally and abroad. This is evident from statements of the spokesperson for the Minister-Coordinator for Special Services Stanisław Żaryn (“Polish authorities have also received important information from partner services”) and deputy special services minister Maciej Wąsik (“Also other counterintelligence services have provided intel to Poland, even stronger that what we have established”). It is also likely that the aforementioned media reports coming from untrustworthy sources were used as justification for actions taken by Polish authorities, just as the “partner services” were in fact those of Kazakhstan and Moldova.
The press also reported that the current foreign affairs minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, has discussed the “Open Dialogue Foundation issue” with his Moldovan counterpart at the December 2018 OSCE Ministerial Council in Milan (it can even be seen in photos showing the minister’s briefing). The Moldovan angle is also noteworthy as the Polish ban for Lyudmyla Kozlovska (explored in depth later) was used intensively to attack pro-European opposition and activists in that country.
The Moldovan parliament (controlled by the PDM party led by the country’s superoligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc) established a special commission to investigate “Open Dialogue Foundation’s and ODF President Lyudmyla Kozlovska’s interference in the domestic affairs of the Republic of Moldova as well as its funding of opposition parties”. It accused opposition leaders of working with ODF against the interests of the state and receiving financing from the Foundation – in reality the alleged “illegal foreign funding” was ODF’s covering of travel costs of two opposition leaders for an event in the European Parliament. The commission based its work, as it itself claimed, on documentation from Poland (which, theoretically, should be kept secret, but in practice keeps leaking to pro-government media).
As of late January 2019, Moldovan authorities are pressuring Belgium to force Lyudmyla Kozlovska to testify in the case in Chisinau – a request criticised by the international community as lawless and unfounded. Former Belgian Prime Minister and President of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, urged the Belgian authorities in a public letter (see Annex 3) to disregard any related requests coming from Moldova. In his letter he cited the European Parliament’s resolution from 14th November 2018, which stressed that “Moldova is a state captured by oligarchic interests with a concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a small group of people exerting their influence on parliament, the government, political parties, the state administration, the police, the judiciary and the media.”. Similar letters are being issued by MEPs from other EP political groups.
Moldovan and Kazakhstani sources are also used to spread disinformation within state and right-wing media. Among the evidently fake news used are Lyudmyla Kozlovska having Russian citizenship or having had affairs with Mukhtar Ablyazov and Bill Browder (based on a fake video circulating on YouTube and pornographic websites). These join a multitude of fake accusations invented by Polish right-wingers, e.g. Bartosz Kramek/ODF planning a bloody revolution or ODF being financed by Soros/Germany/Russia, as well as a completely absurd, viral theory circulated by the US alt-right, claiming that Lyudmyla Kozlovska was in fact Dr Christine Blasey Ford (who testified against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh) caught in a photo with George Soros. ODF’s connection to George Soros (and therefore Soros’s financing of protests in Poland) is a recurring fake story, likely due to the similarity of our acronym to that of Open Society Foundations (OSF) and/or the one time Lyudmyla Kozlovska took a photo alongside Soros at an event.
Another fake story, circulated in state and pro-government media, was that of an investigation into Lyudmyla Kozlovska being initiated by Ukrainian security services (SBU). The story turned out to be created by Ukrainian propaganda portal stopcor.org, who themselves tried to add Kozlovska’s name to an existing, unrelated investigation. State television TVP Info’s website, just as many pro-government portals, were quick to publish the fake news, but never issued a correction once it was debunked.
The smear campaign is carried out not only by the media, but also by far-right and nationalist organisations, which in turn leads to mass hate speech and threats on the Internet. Some of them take place in the public sphere and are met by quiet acceptance and reluctant reactions from authorities.
A very common aspect of the hate campaign is its xenophobic nature: the objects of the attacks are refused the right to call themselves Polish and a lot of the hate speech is directed at Poland’s Eastern neighbours, Lyudmyla Kozlovska’s compatriots. Ukrainians are targeted as many of them took part in anti-government protests and due to ODF’s work, which used to heavily focus on supporting Ukraine through humanitarian aid. This rise of negative emotions towards Ukrainians (and xenophobia in general) further deepens the divisions in society and bolsters aversion towards civic initiatives, refugees and migrants.
The media attacks, which began in the summer of 2017, were just a prelude to a smear campaign from government officials which evokes methods used in the communist era and now lingering in non-democratic post-Soviet states.
Members of the government, including then-interior minister Mariusz Błaszczak and his deputy Jarosław Zieliński, Minister-Coordinator for Special Services Mariusz Kamiński, then-foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski and defence minister Antoni Macierewicz, all analysed, publicly, what actions should be taken towards each non-government organisation. With relation to ODF Jarosław Zieliński and Antoni Macierewicz simply voiced an opinion that the Foundation is “a job for the security services”.
On August 30th, 2017, in an interview for Gazeta Polska Prime Minister Beata Szydło presented her theory that the summer protests were not spontaneous, but “well directed and sponsored”. She emphasized that “specific foundations work in the interest of influential foreign groups” and that they “would not give up easily”. Responding to the interviewer’s question, suggesting a need for a reaction towards the Free Citizens of Poland movement and ODF, the Prime Minister elaborated that “the foreign minister has informed the prosecutor’s office of the unlawful actions of the Open Dialogue Foundation”.
Similar, worrying statements and actions were taken by several Members of Parliament and MEPs:
On July 25th, 2017, Anna Fotyga, Chair of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence of the European Parliament (SEDE), former Minister of Foreign Affairs and prominent member of the Law and Justice party in Poland, publicly expressed her disapproval of the Open Dialogue Foundation. The reason for the unfavourable opinion was Bartosz Kramek’s Facebook post calling for civil disobedience. MEP Fotyga has not only promised to boycott all future initiatives carried out with the participation of the Foundation but also declared that she would thwart all its efforts in the European Parliament, despite the fact that the Foundation had previously cooperated with her and carried out valuable joint initiatives, dedicated mainly to supporting Ukraine and countering Russian propaganda.
On July 31st, 2017, Law and Justice’s Stanisław Pięta MP and vice-chair of the Polish-Ukrainian Parliamentary Group publicly stated that ODF should immediately “get out of Poland”, as it interferes in Polish affairs and ruins Polish-Ukrainian relations.
On the same day, Adam Andruszkiewicz – recently appointed secretary of state, back then an MP of the far-right Kukiz’15 party (a PiS ally) and former leader of the nationalist Endecja organisation – filed a request to security services for an inspection in ODF, claiming it constitutes a “foreign and leftist threat to the Polish state”. He announced he would file a written question regarding the Foundation.
On August 1st, 2017, Tomasz Rzymkowski, another Kukiz’15 MP called ODF an “international criminal organisation”, allegedly financed by George Soros and Russia in order to provoke a rebellion in Poland. He called for a ban on financing of NGOs from abroad.
On August 23rd, 2017, Dominik Tarczyński MP from Law and Justice notified the prosecutors office of an alleged criminal offence committed by ODF in the form of “attempting to forcefully topple a constitutional body”. Tarczyński declared he would discuss that matter with Prosecutor General and justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro.
On September 7th, 2017, a group of seven Kukiz’15 MPs filed a written question to the interior minister, requesting information on the actions taken regarding the Foundation. In response, on September 27th, 2017, Jan Dziedziczak, the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs answered that the Ministry had asked the chef of the KAS (the National Tax Administration) in Warsaw to carry out comprehensive fiscal examination in the foundation, in connection with the foundation’s call for general non-payment of taxes, which was launched on August 7 and applied to the District Court of Warsaw with a demand to suspend current management board of the Foundation and establish a receivership.
In response to those attacks, international NGOs, such as Global Ukraine and Centre for Civil Liberties, as well as Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, issued several statements, in which they called on the Polish government to tackle this situation and urged it to “restore the constitutional order and cease the harassment of the civil society”. Similarly later, in April 2018, 34 NGOs around the world, gathered within the Civic Solidarity Platform, signed an appeal in defence of persecuted civic organisations in Poland, including ODF.
The hate campaign following the publication of Bartosz Kramek’s Facebook post was just the beginning. A more recent wave of libel and slander has hit ODF following the expulsion of Lyudmyla Kozlovska. In defence of the government’s actions Law and Justice officials and pro-government media have issued and published hundreds of articles, interviews and statements accusing ODF, Lyudmyla Kozlovska and Bartosz Kramek of crimes ranging from money laundering to espionage.
Together with her husband they were universally branded “Russian spies” by the right-wing media and leading politicians.
In August and September 2018, top officials, incl. PiS MEPs Ryszard Legutko, Zdzisław Krasnodębski, Karol Karski and Tomasz Poręba, MPs Anna Siarkowska (PiS) and Marek Jakubiak (K’15) and numerous journalists shamelessly repeated fake and debunked news about Lyudmyla Kozlovska being a Russian citizen. Similarly, MEP Dobromir Sośnierz later used, in the EP’s October 24th plenary session, fake and debunked news about Kozlovska being investigated by Ukrainian security services (SBU).
Once Lyudmyla Kozlovska was let back into the EU by Germany and later Belgium, both countries were attacked and accused of working with Russian intelligence – “siding with the Soviets”, as Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz himself has put it. ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt, a staunch supporter of Polish democracy, suffered a massive hate campaign following his defence and support for Lyudmyla. Fellow MEPs Czarnecki, Poręba, Legutko and Krasnodębski (all PiS) accused him of an “anti-Polish crusade” and of supporting Russian interests. Similar accusations of being “a friend of Putin and Russia” were directed against Frank Schwabe, one of the German MPs who invited Kozlovska to speak at the Bundestag.
Due to the overwhelming amount of hate and criminal threats issued towards the Foundation, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, Bartosz Kramek and their colleagues on social media and via other means, ODF has brought a case to the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw which opened an investigation into it.
But the most telling perhaps were two interviews with Witold Waszczykowski, who – as foreign minister – initiated the campaign against ODF and can thus be deemed responsible for all further actions taken against the Foundation. Before the “official” argumentation for ODF President’s Schengen ban was revealed, the Minister bluntly admitted in an interview the true reasons for the authorities’ actions: “The Foundation had ambitions ranging outside Polish borders. They often visited Brussels, where they pursued anti-Polish goals. There was suspicion they also acted against other EU states. The Foundation – through travel – expanded their activities throughout the EU. That’s why Poland’s actions were justified.” He later specified ODF took “actions against a democratically elected government” and was planning a coup. “They wrote a detailed plan on how to topple the Polish government” he added, referring to Bartosz Kramek’s Facebook post. “Kozlovska and Kramek attempted to contact European politicians in Brussels, so our services’ actions were a smart, justified result of precaution” – he ended.
3. The Foreign Minister’s attempts to take control of ODF
On 27 July, 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs demanded an explanation from the Open Dialogue Foundation, alleging that, by sharing Bartosz Kramek’s call for civil disobedience, it was calling for illegal activities and unspecified “personal attacks”. In spite of an extensive explanation provided by the Foundation, on 7 August 2017, the MFA, citing its supervisory powers, demanded that the Foundation removes the “illegal content” from its website and social media accounts within three days.
The Foundation clearly identified it as an attack on freedom of speech and independence of NGOs. It also assumed that Minister of Foreign Affairs may take steps leading to the suspension of the Foundation’s Management Board. According to the law on foundations should the Foundation fail to fulfil the demands, the Ministry of Interior can file a motion with the court, demanding the suspension of the Foundation’s Management Board and appointment of the board of trustees.
On 3 October, 2017, the Open Dialogue Foundation was informed by the Regional Court of Warsaw that the Minister of Foreign Affairs had filed a motion demanding the appointment of a so-called forceful trustee replacing the current Management Board. The court set a 7-day deadline for the provision of the Foundation’s official statement on the matter. At the request of the court, the Foundation has submitted its official position on the matter, indicating numerous faults in the Minister’s motion. On December 7, 2017, the court rejected the Minister’s motion due to its formal faults.
The Minister appealed the decision, but the appeal was dismissed in April 2018. The court fully agreed with ODF’s argumentation, both in terms of procedural faults, as well as the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech. This decision of the first instance court is at this point final.
Thus, the attempts of foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski, and then his successor Jacek Czaputowicz, at committing a sort of a hostile takeover of the Foundation had failed.
The judge, in a lengthy argumentation supporting ODF’s position, claimed that:
- Bartosz Kramek’s Facebook post was his personal text, and not an official statement of the Foundation. It was published on his personal profile and the Foundation’s post from the same day was a separate publication.
- Bartosz Kramek is not, and never was, a member of the Foundation’s governing board (as opposed to the Foundation Board which serves an advisory role), hence his actions cannot be interpreted as those of the Foundation.
- The foreign ministry did not specify which laws were broken according to them.
- Even if the sharing of the mentioned Facebook post on ODF’s Facebook profile was to be treated as an official statement of the Foundation, it would still not constitute a substantial violation of the law, as “discussing ideas and possible forms of civic protests” against the governing party and its policies does not break the law.
STATUS: Lost by Foreign Minister – court dispute won by ODF
- The constitution guarantees the freedom of speech, including the right to manifest beliefs, to assembly and associate (which includes the freedom of operating non-government organisations).
4. Bogus criminal investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office
Despite the court’s clear verdict that nor the Foundation, nor Bartosz Kramek, were guilty of any wrongdoing related to the publication of Bartosz Kramek’s Facebook post, state authorities have nevertheless started an investigation into it, claiming it included content violating the law.
The investigation is carried out by the investigative division of the Warsaw police as part of a case instigated by the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw. No charges have been brought against anyone as part of the investigation. Instead, numerous persons working for the Foundation, or who have cooperated with the Foundation, are being called in for questioning, sometimes even more than once. This included Foundation Board members and renowned anti-communist activists Bogusław Stanisławski (89 years old) and Andrzej Wielowieyski (91 years old), volunteers working for the Foundation and even representatives of other NGOs that have cooperated with ODF in the distant past.
What is puzzling is that despite the investigation being carried out for over a year now and concerning Bartosz Kramek’s post, he himself has not been the object of interest for the investigators, not being called in for questioning even once.
Furthermore, the witnesses were questioned on issues completely unrelated to the case. The investigators rather asked about the Foundation’s functioning, its history, organisational structure, employees and undertaken actions.
STATUS: Reportedly ongoing
The deputy head of the police’s investigative division has requested the delivery of ODF’s accounting documentation for 2010-2012 from the Foundation’s accounting firm, without presenting any decision of a body authorised to do so, nor releasing the firm from fiscal confidentiality.
5. Fiscal and customs inspection
At the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who himself was requested by the Minister-Coordinator for Special Services, on 7 August, 2017, fiscal authorities have launched a special fiscal and customs inspection of the Open Dialogue Foundation – despite the fact that different inspections have already been carried out in previous years. According to the Foundation’s accountants, the inspection was carried out in an unprecedented manner, given the number of the fiscal officers involved, its intensity and the depth of the information required. For many weeks associates of the Foundation were being interrogated in the office of the Fiscal Administration in Warsaw, creating substantial difficulties for the daily work of the organisation. It is also important to note that in a regular, lawful state, customs and fiscal controls are not carried out against opponents of the government at the request of ministers.
The results of the inspection – prolonged multiple times – were delivered to ODF in a letter, dated October 24th, 2018, and leaked – seemingly by the authorities themselves – to the media.
The Customs and Tax Office in Łódź concluded that the Foundation owes an amount of PLN 715,160 of unpaid taxes, related to corporate income tax.
However, the Open Dialogue Foundation is not a commercial entity, but a non-profit organisation. According to Polish law, it does not pay income tax due to the fact that it benefits from tax exemptions for fulfilling the pro bono purposes specified in the Corporate Income Tax Act.
In its report, the Customs and Tax Office (Urząd Celno-Skarbowy, UCS) in Łódź stated that the statutory goal of the foundation is “to defend human rights and support democracy and the rule of law”, and that the ODF actually pursues these goals. However, the Customs and Tax Office states that these goals are not included in the catalogue of goals specified in the Act – a claim immediately contested by ODF’s external accountants and taxation experts.
The Foundation has been pursuing these goals for ten years now, submitting financial and annual statements on their implementation. The Foundation has also successfully passed numerous inspections in previous years, including a special verification process carried out in order to issue a state permit for the supply of bulletproof vests and helmets to aid Ukraine. None of the authorities had any objections as to the activities of the Foundation, including the income tax exemption to which it is entitled, until the time of the current inspection, commenced in 2017 under the rule of the Law and Justice party.
The amount of allegedly due income tax from donations for ODF’s humanitarian aid activities, as requested by the authorities, is comparable to the Foundation’s whole annual budget for 2017. ODF will of course appeal those findings as soon as a final decision is received.
STATUS: Stage 1 complete, expected court dispute that could last years
STATUS: Stage 1 complete, expected court dispute that could last years
As a result of the above inspection the Customs and Tax Office has also initiated an investigation into a possible crime of filing false tax statements and unscrupulous bookkeeping, both punishable by high fines/imprisonment. At this point the Foundation itself is not a side in this investigation hence the only available information comes from media reports as well as actions taken towards ODF’s accountants and employees dealing with finances in the past.
6. The Panama Papers investigation by the Interior Security Agency
On November 23rd, 2018, just hours before Poland’s leading news website Onet.pl was about to publish its article, highly critical of the UCS tax investigation report, a statement was submitted by Stanisław Żaryn, spokesperson for the Minister-Coordinator for Special Services, to the Polish Press Agency (PAP).
The statement informed of an investigation being carried out by the Interior Security Agency (Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego, ABW). While seeming grave and substantial, it did not present any concrete accusations or justifications for its statements. It included suggestions that the ODF or one of its donors – “Silk Road Biuro Analiz i Informacji” (Office of Analysis and Information), a consulting company owned by Bartosz Kramek, the Chair of the Foundation Board – acquires or hides funds via tax havens, engages in money laundering or has connections with suspicious businesses, which would suggest the “criminal origin of the funds”.
The suggestions seemed to be aimed at destroying the good name of the Foundation, while not being supported by evidence. The statement did not contain suspicions of breaking any specific law, but only hypotheses and speculations, presented with the use of terms designed to arouse negative emotions in the reader: tax havens, Panama Papers, illegal income, virtual offices.
Most of the “accusations” did not even refer to any illegal activity, as e.g. there is no law against doing business with “entities registered in virtual offices in the UK” (moreover, such offices are common in many industries, such as IT), or against funding of an NGO by members of its governing bodies – another accusation aimed at provoking a negative impression in a reader not familiar with the law.
The investigation is supposedly being carried out by the ABW as part of a case handled by the prosecutor’s office, based on a request from the Head of the National Tax Administration, related to the Customs and Tax Office’s investigation. ODF, as of January 2019, has not received any notification or other correspondence from the authorities regarding this investigation, so all the available information is based on the press statement released to the PAP by the spokesperson for the Minister-Coordinator for Special Services.
The statement was not only timed specifically to create a diversion from the Onet.pl exposé, highly-damning for the authorities, but it was likely illegal in nature. First of all, it related to the alleged findings of an ongoing investigation, therefore violating its confidentiality and the fiscal confidentiality of the subjects investigated (ODF and Bartosz Kramek’s company, Silk Road). Secondly, the statement was clearly defamatory in nature and can be considered libel.
The unfounded accusations damaged the reputation of the Foundation and of Silk Road, possibly leading to substantial losses for both organisations. The Foundation is therefore preparing legal action against the culprits – the Minister-Coordinator for Special Services and the ABW.
Unfortunately, the success of these actions is highly dependent on the state of the independence of the judiciary in Poland, which, as previously mentioned, is deteriorating rapidly.
Another action taken by Law and Justice, this time towards Bartosz Kramek personally, but likely linked to the above investigation, was adding him to an unspecified government watchlist. He found out about it when travelling to Poland in late 2018. After landing at Warsaw Chopin Airport he was held by border police on the request of another agency (most likely the ABW), questioned for about half an hour, including on his current residence address, and thoroughly searched.
STATUS: No official information provided to ODF so far – reportedly ongoing
STATUS: No official information provided to ODF so far – reportedly ongoing
This could only be the first step into repression against him. Considering the government’s full political control of the prosecutor’s office, police and other security organs, it would not be surprising if next measures against him included arrest or a ban on leaving the country.
7. Law and Justice MEPs attempting to revoke ODF’s EP accreditation
In March and May 2018, Law and Justice Members of the European Parliament, Ryszard Legutko, Kosma Złotowski and Ryszard Czarnecki submitted parliamentary questions to the European Commission regarding ODF entitled “Verification of entities from the European Commission’s Transparency Register”, “Doubts regarding the connection between the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF) and the Russian Federation vs. the Transparency Register” and “Activities of the Open Dialogue Foundation”. The questions included false information about ODF’s and Lyudmyla Kozlovska’s “close links” and “numerous connections to the Russian Federation”, as well as being “financed by an entity that cooperates with the Russian Navy”. No basis for these statements was presented other than dubious media outlets, but, based on them, the MEPs requested that ODF is removed from the EU Transparency Register and its EP accreditation revoked.
Considering how these accusations were evidently contrary to the actual work conducted by the Foundation, which – from the very beginning – has been consistently anti-Kremlin and pro- Ukrainian, these statements were simply offensive. They clearly fell into the wider campaign of discrediting ODF by Poland’s ruling party, this time in the international arena.
Both requests were denied by the European Commission as vague and unsubstantiated.
STATUS: Failed, MEPs’ requests dismissed
On August 3rd, 2018, the Foundation received a letter from the First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, containing replies and an explanation regarding ODF’s entry in the Transparency Register, under question by Law and Justice MEPs. The letter stated that “in the case of the Open Dialogue Foundation no violations of the Code of Conduct have been found”.
8. The expulsion of ODF’s President from the EU
In August 2017 the most drastic step was taken against the Foundation. Seemingly as retaliation for her husband’s Facebook post and as a precautionary measure (as directly claimed by foreign minister Waszczykowski), ODF President Lyudmyla Kozlovska found herself entered in the Schengen Information System (SIS II) with the highest alert level – normally reserved for terrorists, serious criminals or spies. It was done disregarding the requirements of the EU’s SIS II regulation, as there was no court or administrative decision (which would give her the possibility to appeal) and she was not informed of the basis for the entry.
The ban resulted in an immediate expulsion of Lyudmyla Kozlovska not only from Poland, but from the EU. She suddenly became unable to return to her home in Warsaw, where she had been living with her Polish husband for 10 years. She was forcefully separated from her family and friends as well as her job.
For weeks she had to stay in Kyiv, 800km from her home in Warsaw, moving between rented rooms and apartments every couple of days. She was in constant danger due to being followed by operatives of foreign security services of non-democratic states (most likely Russia, Kazakhstan and/or Moldova), from which she had defended others her whole adult life.
Only thanks to immediate international support she was finally able to return to the EU – first to Berlin on the invitation of members of the Bundestag, Frank Schwabe (SPD) and Dr Andreas Nick (CDU), then to Brussels thanks to Members of the European Parliament (Guy Verhofstadt, Rebecca Harms and Michał Boni), all of whom were aware of ODF’s track record and the clear abuse of power by Polish authorities.
Both in the case of Germany and Belgium, just as later with France, Switzerland and the UK, the authorities of those countries – having examined the case, including intelligence materials sent to them by their Polish counterparts (as was publicly announced by Polish officials) – concluded that Lyudmyla Kozlovska poses no threat to the Schengen zone or to them. They not only issued her national (LTV) visas (with the German one being issued in “national interest”), but cleared her to present her case in their nations’ most secure buildings – the Bundestag, the European Parliament, the House of Commons, UN headquarters and the Council of Europe. This turn of events sparked outrage of comical proportions among PiS officials, with the MFA summoning the German and Belgian ambassadors, as well as President Duda personally complaining to his German counterpart, who – according to Duda’s spokesperson – “promised to look into the matter”.
The case received wide criticism from international experts and organisations. Numerous NGOs (especially Ukrainian), leading politicians (including the President and Vice-President of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament), top media publications (incl. the Financial Times, Washington Post, Politico Europe, New York Times, Daily Mail & ABC News) and academics agreed that Poland’s step was an abuse of power and could violate European laws and treaties (esp. the SIS II regulation, that the Polish law was found incompatible with, and possibly the Treaty on European Union). Jarosław Kaczynski has also been named Ukraine’s “Foe of the Week” by Kyiv Post for his ‘outrageous attack’ on the ODF President.
The ALDE Group in the European Parliament issued two letters ,  to the European Commission demanding it investigates the case and possibly includes it in its Article 7 proceedings or initiates a case in front of the European Court of Justice.
Lyudmyla Kozlovska herself has also used every legal measure available to appeal the decision, in Poland and in Belgium, as well as on the European level. The case has also been submitted to the Polish Ombudsman and will be brought to his European counterpart as well as the European Court of Human Rights.
STATUS: Ban still in force, further countries disregarding it…
A petition was initiated by former Polish president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Wałęsa, asking EU heads of state to grant Lyudmyla Kozlovska their nationality or otherwise enable her to return to the EU. The petition was signed by over 30 thousand EU citizens and over 80 high-profile figures, including European Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the S&D Group in the European Parliament, numerous MEPs and many other representatives of all spheres of public life across Europe.
As of January 2019, Lyudmyla Kozlovska is living with her husband in Brussels, Belgium, having been issued temporary residence by that country.
A full timeline of events related to the case, including the authorities’ actions taken against ODF, is attached in Annex 1.
9. Conclusions and recommendations
The actions and statements listed above should not be examined in isolation, but as part of a wider, coordinated campaign against an NGO that is, quite surprisingly, considered heavily inconvenient for the regime – as was bluntly stated by former foreign minister Waszczykowski. This campaign, on the other hand, is an element in Law and Justice’s wider crackdown on civil society and civic freedoms in general. Many of the actions taken against ODF – such as defamation in state media or criminal investigations – are also being taken against leading opposition movements and NGOs, such as Obywatele RP, Komitet Obrony Demokracji (KOD) or Akcja Demokracja.
Obywatele RP’s foundation was under attack by Interior Minister Joachim Brudziński, who – in a fashion similar to his Foreign Ministry counterpart – attempted to forcefully take control of it, claiming it illegally called for civil disobedience. The attempt was also refused by the court as groundless in November 2018.
As the latest Human Rights Watch report states: “The Polish government is attacking women’s rights activists and organizations, putting women’s rights and safety at risk. More than two years after the first Black Protests, when thousands took to the streets to protest efforts to further restrict access to abortion, the ruling Law and Justice party is targeting women’s rights activism through raids on groups’ offices, denial of funding, public smear campaigns, and disciplinary action.”
Similarly, in October 2017, the day after the nationwide women’s rights protests, police officers entered the offices of several women’s organisations (Center for Women’s Rights and the Baba Association) and seized their documentation, computers and data related to their past projects, and – in some cases – to their general activities as well. The targeted organisations perceived these actions as an intimidation and discouragement from further protest campaigns.
Interestingly, all the mentioned organisations have a substantial track record of effective protests or other actions taken in defence of either democracy and the rule of law, or women’s rights in Poland. The Open Dialogue Foundation, on the other hand, despite the personal involvement of those associated with it, has not played a significant role in the so-called “street opposition movement”, having been largely focused on its original statutory goals of defending human rights in the post-Soviet region.
The attack on human rights defenders in Poland, including ODF, was well summarized by United Nations Special Rapporteur Michel Forst in the UN’s World Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defender in December 2018: “The government’s control on the press has tightened in recent years and has had a chilling effect on the work of human rights defenders, including journalists. The State (or its senior officials) are in control of most mass media outlets in the State. Defenders have faced sustained campaigns of stigmatization by the media. (…)
Defenders in Poland face a growing number of challenges to their enjoyment of the rights articulated in the Declaration. There are significant threats to the ability of defenders to enjoy the freedom of expression, assembly and association. Defenders perceived as critical of the State or as advocating ‘untraditional’ values or marginalized groups are particularly at risk of having their rights violated. (…)
Recent communications concerned actions taken against the Open Dialogue Foundation and undue restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly during the upcoming global climate change conference in the State in December 2018.”
Admittedly, the Foundation only appeared on the map of civic initiatives working against Law and Justice’s path towards authoritarianism in July 2017, when all it did was share Bartosz Kramek’s Facebook post. The Foundation does not have, and never did have, aspirations to become a leading opposition force in Poland, but this is how it is being portrayed through the actions taken against it by the authorities. Only after July 2017, when the government was about to seize full control of the judiciary and attacks on the Foundation began, ODF has started to present the developments in Poland in the European and international arena, advocating for the rule of law and civil liberties in Poland.
This is in line with the authorities’ motivations described in much detail by Minister Waszczykowski, in two interviews in September 2018 (Dziennik Gazeta Prawna and Radio ZET). The government “got scared” by the Foundation’s “ambitions ranging outside Poland”, as far as Brussels, where ODF “pursued anti-Polish goals”. Bartosz Kramek’s post was, to them, a “detailed plan of how to topple the government”, and Lyudmyla Kozlovska was highly efficient, “more active than Kramek”, as she would “swamp” Mr Waszczykowski, while he was still an MP, with “emails requesting intervention or information on Kazakhstan”, “once a week or even more often than that”.
This way the Foundation became, unwillingly, a type of arch-nemesis for the Law and Justice government, with the latter taking measures – often of absurd proportions – to mitigate the perceived threat.
* * *
WHAT CAN BE DONE BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY?
HOW CAN YOU HELP CIVIL SOCIETY IN POLAND?
The international community has been active in supporting the civic democratic opposition in Poland, ever since it rose up as a result of Law and Justice’s assault on the Constitutional Court – their first major action after coming to power in late 2015.
There are nevertheless several key components of meaningful support to Polish civil society under attack:
Do not stay indifferent, take action.
Whatever position you hold, whatever your influence is, show your opposition to rule of law breaches in Poland and other countries plagued by authoritarianism. Write about it, post about it, tweet about it – make your voice be heard, never give up on exposing abuse. As a policymaker submit questions and declarations, advocate for resolutions criticising individual cases of injustice and repression of civil society, organise fact-finding missions. Push your fellow MPs or MEPs to do the same.
Share your position with other stakeholders, demand their action.
Petition policymakers, the authorities of your country and international organisations (such as the Council of Europe, UN or OSCE) to take a stance, to demand that authorities such as Polish cease their assault. Through diplomatic channels inform the authorities of other states. They should all use every tool at their disposal to pressure an abusive government – from statements and diplomatic pressure to financial repercussions for rule of law violation.
Support efforts towards safeguarding the rule of law in Poland.
If you are part of an international or otherwise influential institution, support the European Commission’s Article 7 proceedings or bringing cases in front of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). A successful advocacy campaign, carried out in part by Polish civil society, helped to pave the way for the EC to initiate a formal infringement procedure regarding the new Polish law on the Supreme Court. Thanks to those efforts, leading to a decisive ruling of the ECJ, the seizure of the Court by Law and Justice was reversed. Nevertheless, the anti-constitutional laws on the National Council of the Judiciary and on common courts, as well as numerous other changes implemented by the ruling party, have to be reversed in order to fully restore the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers in Poland. Furthermore, if you’re an MEP, submit oral and written questions regarding the matter, ask for including ODF’s case and the larger assault on civil society in the Commission’s work. As policy-maker you should also consider supporting the inclusion of rule of law conditionality clauses for funds directed to Poland – be it national or European (as it was recently supported by the EP). International funds can also be redirected from the central government to local authorities.
Support the reform of SIS and monitor abuse of other international cooperation mechanisms.
SIS can be a tool abused by EU’s hybrid regimes against political opponents, just as Interpol is used by the Kremlin and other post-Soviet regimes. Support initiatives like the European Parliament’s efforts to reform it or Frank Schwabe MP’s motion for resolution from 12 October 2018 in the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE and demand extra safeguards to be added. Expose and oppose the use of Interpol, mutual assistance and extradition requests for political persecution.
Push for limited trust towards illiberal or hybrid governments.
If you are representing – or can influence – a national government or international body, continue the measures taken by Ireland or the Netherlands, whose courts have refused to extradite suspects to Poland, citing concerns regarding the country’s judicial independence and worry that they would not have a fair trial there. Poland’s abuse of SIS was likely a violation of the Treaty on European Union’s “principle of sincere cooperation”, which raises concern regarding about the country adhering to other obligations under the European aquis.
Focus on specific cases.
By now the world is well aware of the advancing dismantling of freedom and democracy in Poland. The topic has been tackled by every major international body and organisation from every angle – the separation of powers, media independence, women’s rights, civic freedoms. The international public has moved on to other, more current topics, just as it has previously moved on from the topic of Hungary. But what can still attract attention is new, specific cases of further abuse, as was the case with the expulsion of Lyudmyla Kozlovska, which for weeks was a trending topic in EU circles. Just in Poland there are now, according to rough estimates, over 2000 persecuted activists in connection to the defence of the rule of law. Disciplinary and even criminal proceedings have been instigated against numerous “disobedient” judges and prosecutors by Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro.
Offer your support to pro-democratic organisations, activists and especially victims of systemic abuse.
When learning about a civil society organisation, group or even single activist becoming persecuted by authorities, offer your support. Contact them and ask them directly how you and your organisation might be of help. The support can range anywhere from a public statement, through monitoring of legal proceedings against them, to financial support (most new pro-democratic movements rely on donations or crowdfunding).
Counter the government’s attempts at delegitimising their target.
Be it an NGO or a group of activists, when the authorities try to brand them as traitors, criminals or otherwise defame them, counteract by closer cooperation with them. Invite them to a joint project or event, include them in a grant proposal, offer listing them as signatories of your petition. Sometimes simply mentioning them as partners on your website or social media can mean a lot for their credibility and make it harder for the authorities to damage their reputation.
Organise counter-campaigns at whatever scale you can.
If an illiberal government runs a coordinated campaign against a perceived enemy, organise your own. Start a public petition, organise events, protest at their embassies. Invent a hashtag and ignite a viral, grassroots movement on social media. As long as a state maintains international relations, and especially if it’s s a signatory to international treaties and member of international bodies such as the EU, UN, NATO or OSCE, it has to take into consideration the international opinion. Despite what nationalists try to project, no country is an isolated island, and with enough international pressure they will step down from their dangerous path.
Do not stay indifferent to hate speech and disinformation.
When you see fake news or abuse on social media, in traditional media or anywhere in the public sphere, report it to the platform (Facebook, Twitter, news websites or fora) and/ or to the authorities. Notify fact-checkers and, if you are able, expose disinformation yourself, e.g. with screenshots or memes. In extreme cases, e.g. when death threats are involved, take legal steps. Expose hate speech by journalists, politicians or other influencers. Even as a TV viewer you can sue a station for spreading fake or defamatory information. Do not let hatred grow unchallenged, as sooner or later it will move from the virtual to the real world, as tragically exemplified by the murder of Gdańsk mayor Paweł Adamowicz.
Investigate links and common interests of EU illiberal states and non-EU regimes.
If you represent an international organisation or institution, pay extra attention to the cooperation of populist, eurosceptic EU states and non-democratic regimes. If a country such as Poland cooperates with post-Soviet regimes like Kazakhstan or Moldova, and both sides benefit from persecuting their common opponent, it should cause concern. Any actions benefiting the Kremlin and its cronies pose a danger to European integrity. Expose those links and mutual interests.
Public letter by Guy Verhofstadt in defence of Lyudmyla Kozlovska
In response to the growing threat of Moldovan authorities, under orders from super-oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, attempting to use so-called mutual assistance or other international mechanisms to prosecute and pursue Lyudmyla Kozlovska in Belgium, on 29 January 2019 Guy Verhofstadt, President of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament and former Prime Minister of Belgium, issued a public letter in her defence.
* * *
Federal Public Service Interior
To Whom It May Concern:
The case of Lyudmyla Kozlovska, Ukrainian human rights activist, is and has been closely followed by Members of the European Parliament including myself. Mrs Kozlovska was expelled last August from the Schengen zone by the Polish government using the Schengen Information System. Given the lack of any credible evidence backing the steps taken by the Polish government, the case sparked harsh international criticism.
Having believed this action was an abuse of SIS by the Polish government to expel a pro-democratic opponent, I invited Mrs Kozlovska to speak at an open session of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament in September 2018. Based on that invitation, as well as of those from my colleagues from other political groups, she received a Belgian LTV visa, with which she was able to enter Belgium. Similarly, several other European countries, incl. France, Germany, UK and Switzerland, felt the Polish entry ban was groundless and decided to let Mrs Kozlovska enter their territory.
I was informed that at this point she is in the process of extending her temporary residence permit, obtained due to her now residing and working in Belgium.
I have also just learned about very worrying recent developments in Moldova, which I would like you to be aware of.
In its resolution from November 14th, 2018, the European Parliament has expressed grave concern about the deteriorating state of democratic standards in Moldova, especially the rule of law and independence of the judiciary. As stressed in the resolution, “Moldova is a state captured by oligarchic interests with a concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a small group of people exerting their influence on parliament, the government, political parties, the state administration, the police, the judiciary and the media.”
At the same time, Lyudmyla Kozlovska and her NGO, the Open Dialogue Foundation, have been highly active since 2016 in defending human rights and the rule of law in Moldova, focusing on the need for conditionality clauses in existing and future European and international financial aid programmes for that country.
For that reason, the Open Dialogue Foundation and Lyudmyla Kozlovska personally have become a target for the Moldovan authorities. The country’s super-oligarch, Vladimir Plahotniuc, has personally requested the parliament, controlled by his PDM party, to open a questionable investigation into “Open Dialogue Foundation’s and Lyudmyla Kozlovska’s interference in the domestic affairs of the Republic of Moldova as well as it’s funding of opposition parties”.
As a result of this so-called parliamentary investigation, based on fictional accusations (e.g. the “funding of opposition parties” being in fact a one-time reimbursement of travel costs of two most prominent opposition leaders), Moldovan authorities are now attempting to prosecute Kozlovska and demanding she is interrogated in Chisinau on February 15, 2019.
I would therefore like to stress that if any request for so- called mutual assistance, extradition or other demand related to Lyudmyla Kozlovska is received by Belgian authorities from their Moldovan counterparts, it should be considered as political prosecution in order to pressure a human rights defender, approached with utmost scepticism and not treated as a relevant request by a state that fully abides by the rule of law. It can not and should not influence her right to remain in Belgium, where she is already living in exile, having been unlawfully expelled by Polish authorities in the first place.
In Brussels, 29 January 2019
President of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament
Federal Public Service Justice
Survival Guide to Authoritarianism
The text below, part of what was later dubbed the “Survival Guide to Authoritarianism”, was published in January 2017 by Martin Mycielski – ODF’s current Public Affairs Director and Board Member – in a series of spontaneous, improvised tweets, which reached 3 million views within less than a month. Their common elements were their trademark signature, “– With love, your Eastern European friends”, and the accompanying hashtag #LearnFromEurope.
The Guide went viral in the US and in many other countries, being translated into several languages, from Turkish, through Polish, to Filipino. It was printed on placards during anti-Trump protests, studied at two American universities, quoted by CNBC’s Joy Reid on national TV, recommended by former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and shared by chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, among many others.
Excerpts and summaries have been published by various media, with the full set of texts available on the Verfassunsblog portal and a dedicated website: www.LearnFromEurope.org. A web series based on the Guide, created by the Civil Liberties Union for Europe, premiered on 23 October 2018 on www.liberties.eu.
* * *
YEAR ONE UNDER AUTHORITARIANISM
WHAT TO EXPECT?
1. They will come to power with a campaign based on fear, scaremongering and distorting the truth. Nevertheless, their victory will be achieved through a democratic electoral process. But beware, as this will be their argument every time you question the legitimacy of their actions. They will claim a mandate from the People to change the system.
Remember – gaining power through a democratic process does not give them permission to cross legal boundaries and undermine said democracy.
2. They will divide and rule. Their strength lies in unity, in one voice and one ideology, and so should yours. They will call their supporters Patriots, the only “true Americans”. You will be labelled as traitors, enemies of the state, unpatriotic, the corrupt elite, the old regime trying to regain power. Their supporters will be the “People”, the “sovereign” who chose their leaders.
Don’t let them divide you – remember you’re one People, one Nation, with one common good.
3. They will subjugate state media, turning them into a propaganda tube. Then, through convoluted laws and threats they will attempt to control all mainstream media and limit press freedom. They will ban critical press from their briefings, calling them “liars”, “fake news”. They will brand those media as “unpatriotic”, acting against the People (see point 2).
Fight for every media outlet, every journalist that is being banned, censored, sacked or labelled an “enemy of the state” – there’s no hope for freedom where there is no free press.
4. They will create chaos, maintain a constant sense of conflict and danger. It will be their argument to enact new authoritarian laws, each one further limiting your freedoms and civil liberties. They will disguise them as being for your protection, for the good of the People.
See through the chaos, the fake danger, expose it before you wake up in a totalitarian, fascist state.
5. They will distort the truth, deny facts and blatantly lie. They will try to make you forget what facts are, sedate your need to find the truth. They will feed “post-truths” and “alternative facts”, replace knowledge and logic with emotions and fiction.
Always think critically, fact-check and point out the truth, expose ignorance with facts.
6. They will incite and then leak fake, superficial “scandals”. They will smear opposition with trivial accusations, blowing them out of proportion and then feeding the flame. This is just smokescreen for the legal steps they will be taking towards totalitarianism.
See through superficial topics in mainstream media (see point 3) and focus on what they are actually doing.
7. They will propose shocking laws to provoke your outrage. You will focus your efforts on fighting them, so they will seemingly back off, giving you a false sense of victory. In the meantime they will push through less “flashy” legislation, slowly dismantling democracy (see points 4 and 6)
Focus your fight on what really matters.
8. When invading your liberal sensibilities they will focus on what hurts the most – women and minorities. They will act as if democracy was majority rule without respect for the minority. They will paint foreigners and immigrants as potential threats. Racial, religious, sexual and other minorities will become enemies to the order and security they are supposedly providing. They will challenge women’s social status, undermine gender equality and interfere with reproductive rights (see point 7). But it means they are aware of the threat women and minorities pose to their rule, so make it your strength.
Women and minorities have to be ready to fight the hardest – reminding the majority what true democracy is about – and you must fight together with them.
9. They will try to take control of the judiciary. They will assault your highest court. They need to remove the checks and balances to be able to push through unconstitutional legislation. Controlling the judiciary they can also threat anyone that defies them with prosecution, including the press (see point 3).
Preserve the independence of your courts at all cost, they are your safety valve, the safeguard of the rule of law and the democratic system.
10. They will try to limit freedom of assembly, calling it a necessity for your security. They will enact laws prioritizing state events and rallies, or those of a certain type or ideology. If they can choose who can demonstrate legally, they have a legal basis to forcefully disperse or prosecute the rest.
Oppose any legislation attempting to interfere with freedom of assembly, for whatever reason.
11. They will distort the language, coin new terms and labels, repeat shocking phrases until you accept them as normal and subconsciously associate them with whom they like. A “thief”, “liar” or “traitor” will automatically mean the opposition, while a “patriot” or a “true American” will mean their follower (see point 2). Their slogans will have double meaning, giving strength to their supporters and instilling angst in their opponents.
Fight changes in language in the public sphere, remind and preserve the true meaning of words.
12. They will take over your national symbols, associate them with their regime, remake them into attributes of their power. They want you to forget that your flag, your anthem and your symbols belong to you, the People, to everyone equally. Don’t let them be hijacked. Use and expose them in your fight as much as they do.
Show your national symbols with pride, let them give you strength, not associate you with the tyranny they brought onto your country.
13. They will try to rewrite history to suit their needs and use the education system to support their agenda. They will smear any historical or living figure who wouldn’t approve of their actions, or distort their image to make you think they would. They will place emphasis on historical education in schools, feeding young minds with the “only correct” version of history and philosophy. They will raise a new generation of voters on their ideology, backing it with a distorted interpretation of history and view of the world.
Guard the education of your children, teach them critical thinking, ensure their open-mindedness and protect your real history and heritage.
14. They will alienate foreign allies and partners, convincing you don’t need them. They won’t care for the rest of the world, with their focus on “making your country great again”. While ruining your economy to fulfil their populist promises, they will omit the fact that you’re part of a bigger world whose development depends on cooperation, on sharing and on trade.
Don’t let them build walls promising you security instead of bridges giving you prosperity.
15. They will eventually manipulate the electoral system. They might say it’s to correct flaws, to make it more fair, more similar to the rest of the world, or just to make it better. Don’t believe it. They wouldn’t be messing with it at all if it wasn’t to benefit them in some way.
Oppose any changes to electoral law that an authoritarian regime wants to enact – rest assured it’s only to help them remain in power longer.
And above all, be strong, fight, endure, and remember you’re on the good side of history.
EVERY authoritarian, totalitarian and fascist regime in history eventually failed, thanks to the PEOPLE.
– With love, your Eastern European friends
* * *
“THERE ARE FORCES IN THE EU WHICH AIM TO HUMILIATE POLAND”
Dziennik Gazeta Prawna: How will you comment on the fact that Moldovan authorities are using the Polish SIS entry and ABW investigation to delegalise their opposition? It’s all about their contacts with ODF and alleged financing of the opposition from abroad.
Jacek Czaputowicz: We take our decisions based on our knowledge and law. It is hard for me to comment on the actions of other countries, even though some actions taken by Moldovan authorities against the opposition raise our concerns.
DGP: But we’re talking here about a Polish decision that resonates in another part of Europe and hurts pro-European opposition politicians. We’re talking about harm to a political party which also Warsaw views with sympathy.
JC: Our stance stems from threats on Polish territory.
DGP: And what if Lyudmyla Kozlovska receives the passport of an EU state?
JC: Then she does.
DGP: She will be able to freely move around member states despite the ban, which will utterly humiliate the decision of Polish authorities.
JC: We’re speaking about some hypothetical situation. I don’t think that countries give their citizenships on a daily basis.
DGP: To a citizen, that has a Polish husband and is unable to meet with him on Polish territory…
JC: Even in this case. We are aware that there are forces in the EU, which aim to – as you put it – humiliate Poland. The SIS system relies on trust. If we start wondering, if a person was entered into it justly or unjustly, we will cause the erosion of this important accomplishment of the EU. And this is in no-one’s interest.