Following the introduction of the government’s ‘decommunisation of services’ bill last year, 51 Polish Foreign Ministry staff, including former ambassadors, were forced to quit over recent months.
The information was published on Thursday by the “Rzeczpospolita” daily. It argues that following the introduction of the legislation, a few dozen diplomats and other foreign ministry workers were dismissed from their posts. It was a consequence of their past work for or with the secret services under Poland’s communist government.
Among diplomats who were forced to leave the foreign ministry was a former Polish ambassador to Angola, Brazil, and Costa Rica, a former consul to Saint Petersburg, Lviv, and a former Ambassador to Turkey
The move has been questioned by ministry staff and the opposition. They argue that dismissing experienced officials damages the reputation of the foreign ministry. Former FM Dariusz Rosati told “Rzeczpospolita” that it was a mistake to tar all diplomats who served under the communist government with a single brush. He said that many diplomats under the communist government were connected to the secret services “as that was the standard at the time.”
However, the ruling party argues that the removal of experienced diplomats – many of them in their mid sixties – did not hurt the foreign ministry.
“Among those officials were some with a long-standing record but this fact does not impact the quality of tasks undertaken by the ministry,” said a ministry statement.
Ruling Law and Justice MP Joanna Lichocka, who was in charge of the bill in Parliament, argued that the move was necessary. “It shows that serving Moscow disqualifies anyone from serving free Poland, regardless of the experience,” she said.
Comment: a purge?
The ending of the careers of around fifty officials does not a purge make. Especially as it was carried out according to clear criteria.
The government’s judgement is that serving the former communist secret services should no longer be regarded as defensible. This is a debate that has been going on in Poland ever since communism ended in 1989.
On the one hand are those who, like the current opposition, believe that it is unfair to punish people for a past that was a long time ago. On the other, those who argue that former communist secret service staff for far too long did very well out of the “forgive and forget” policy at the expense of people who during communist times and after did not have such advantages in their lives.
In addition, we also have the “Russia card”. The secret services of communist Poland were very closely allied those of the USSR. Many of Poland’s diplomatic staff were trained in Moscow.
In the current international situation, in which Russia is once more clearly a foe of NATO, and Poland is now a staunch member of NATO, it can be argued with some justification that it is better not to risk having in sensitive places people who may have once had contacts with Russia’s secret services.