(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s leader proposed measures to soften parts of a controversial law that drew swift criticism from the US and the European Union this week, rowing back on legislation that critics called an abuse of power.
President Andrzej Duda said he was “appalled” by the outcry and said portions of the legislation setting up a probe that could target opposition figures should be curtailed. Poland’s head of state had told Bloomberg on Tuesday that the objections were unjustified — and offered to explain the legislation to US President Joe Biden.
The measures would “regulate or change those issues that arouse the greatest controversy and which are very often falsified in the media,” Duda told reporters in Warsaw Friday.
The zloty gained after his remarks, advancing 0.7% to 4.4880 per euro, the steepest rise since May 22.
The president’s about-face is a bid to defuse a new point of conflict between Poland and its main allies as the eastern NATO member embraces its central role in efforts to support Ukraine. Critics said the new law could allow the ruling party to effectively put opposition leader Donald Tusk on trial months ahead of a tightly contested election slated for October.
Duda on Monday signed the bill into law, which would set up a panel with unprecedented powers to effectively skirt the court system to investigate Russian meddling in Polish affairs. The ruling Law & Justice party has for years accused Tusk of tolerating Russian influence when he was prime minister between 2007 and 2014, a charge that Tusk allies call absurd.
The president proposed amendments to the legislation that would prevent the panel from imposing penalties, such as stopping officials from seeking office. Duda also wants to exclude lawmakers from taking part on the nine-person committee — and make it easier to appeal its verdicts.
The blunt criticism — the US State Department said the panel would proceed “without due process” — took the establishment in Warsaw off guard. Duda, who has made an effort to assert himself as a bedrock NATO ally, has distanced himself on occasion from the ruling party, which has been entangled in a dispute with the EU over the country’s rule-of-law standards.
The European Commission this week voiced “serious concern” and demanded an analysis of the law, saying it would weigh taking action. The EU’s executive arm is already withholding billions of euros in funding for Poland as part of a running conflict over the independence of the country’s judiciary.
--With assistance from Wojciech Moskwa.
(Updates with zloty in the fourth paragraph.)
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