‘Attempt to break the independence of the Polish central bank’ – PM Tusk tries to bring central bank under government control in unprecedented move

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Thursday, March 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
4 Min Read

The ruling coalition headed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk has accused the head of the central bank, Adam Glapiński, of breaking several laws and of violating his constitutional obligation to uphold the political independence of the National Bank of Poland (NBP).

If the required motion passes, Glapiński will be the first person since 2006 brought before the State Tribunal, a body empowered to sanction the highest officials of the state. However, he has dismissed the accusations against him as “idiotic.”

The indictment prepared in parliament includes eight charges, including the purchase of state bonds that led to the indirect financing of the state budget deficit by the central bank, weakening Poland’s currency (PLN or zloty), failure to control inflation, and alleged violation of the apolitical nature of the office of the NBP head.  

The motion was signed by 191 of the 459 active members of parliament. That is more than the 115 MPs required to support such a motion. It will now be assessed by a parliamentary committee before going to the full chamber for a final decision by a simple majority in the presence of at least half of MPs to begin a trial by the State Tribunal. 

Should that happen, the governor could be suspended from his position during the legal proceedings. However, the Constitutional Tribunal, the top court in Poland, which the Tusk government claims is illegitimate, recently ruled that parliament may only put the head of the NBP on trial with a super majority of three-fifths of its total membership. 

Glapiński, in an interview for the Financial Times, has called the allegations made by the ruling majority “idiotic” and warned that putting him on trial would be very bad for Poland. He expressed the desire to “meet and talk” with Tusk to set straight the issues between them. 

On Tuesday, the NBP board made their position on the matter clear. One of its members, Paweł Szałamacha, called the move to unseat Glapiński an “attempt to break the independence of the Polish central bank” and an “assault on the fundamentals of the Polish state and its economy.”

Szałamacha rejected the charge regarding buying bonds during the pandemic; he noted that this was also the case in most Western countries and that the operations of Poland’s bank were fully transparent. 

The idea of bringing Glapiński before the State Tribunal has also been criticized by the previous ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS). On Saturday, its leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, warned that it would lead to “a lowering of Poland’s credibility, a weakening of the currency, and a reluctance of foreign companies to invest in Poland.”

In December last year, the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) assured Glapiński that he would be protected by EU law if the incoming government unlawfully suspended and prosecuted him. The ECB has recently protested the attempted suspension of the central bank governor in Latvia, with the matter going before the European Court of Justice. 

In Poland’s post-communist history, only two people have been convicted by the State Tribunal: a minister and a senior customs official in relation to a corruption scandal involving the import of alcohol in the 1990s. The last time the parliament voted to bring someone before the tribunal was in 2005, when former Treasury Minister Emil Wąsacz was put on trial. The case against him was eventually discontinued in 2019.

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