Government under pressure over eavesdropping scandal
June 16, 2014
The opposition has called on Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Cabinet to resign after a magazine said it had a tape of a conversation in which Poland’s central bank chief calls for the finance minister to be fired in return for the bank helping the government with economic problems.
The revelations have triggered what is shaping up as a major crisis for Tusk’s government.
Poland's Wprost weekly news magazine said it had what it described as a compromising recording of a private meeting in a Warsaw restaurant last July between central bank governor Marek Belka and Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz. The weekly did not say how it acquired the recordings or who had eavesdropped on the conversation.
Wprost said after that warning investors would flee Poland if the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party took power, Sienkiewicz bargained for direct help from the central bank for the government in dealing with the budget deficit. Poland's central bank is required to be independent of the government.
According to Wprost, Belka replied that his condition for helping was the removal of the finance minister. The finance minister at the time, Jacek Rostowski, lost his job in November in a Cabinet reshuffle.
In recordings released by Wprost, Belka uses a swear word to describe the central bank's Monetary Policy Council, which sets interest rates.
In a statement issued Sunday, the central bank said Belka “apologizes to everyone who was insulted” by his language, but added that his comments had been quoted out of context. The statement denied that Belka had overstepped his powers as central bank chief.
Law and Justice and other opposition parties urged Tusk’s government to resign. Krzysztof Gawkowski, secretary general of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) party, said: “The Polish state is suffering from cancer, and malignant cancer at that. Chemotherapy is needed.”
In a comment on Twitter, Tusk said: "An unfortunate business”, adding that he was “not treating this lightly.” Tusk said that he would comment further at a special press conference on Monday at 3pm.
Wprost said it also had additional recordings of conversations involving former Transport Minister Slawomir Nowak, Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development Elzbieta Bienkowska and Polish tycoon Jan Kulczyk.
Observers said that the leaked recordings of private talks between government ministers and senior officials like Belka prompted security concerns, while Wprost magazine asked: “Is this a coup calculated to topple Donald Tusk’s government?”