Polish leader wants secret files opened

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The Independent Online
Poland's President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, is to push for the country's Communist-era secret police files to be opened. The move follows the resignation this week of the Prime Minister, Jozef Oleksy, over claims that he was a KGB spy.

Mr Kwasniewski, a former Communist, wants the files to be made accessible to an independent commission that would then be able to rule whether candidates for senior government posts had been informers.

The aim of the legislation, which would be modelled on that passed for east Germany, would be to draw a line under the Communist past and establish ground rules on the extent to which politicians can be judged today for what they did in the past. "I would like to help Poles ... settle accounts from the more distant and the recent past," said Mr Kwasniewski, who, like most ex-Communists, previously opposed any opening of the secret- police files. His change of heart was undoubtedly prompted by the fate of Mr Oleksy, his party colleague, who spent the past month trying to defend himself against allegations that he was a Moscow spy for more than a decade.

Even as he announced his resignation on Wednesday, Mr Oleksy insisted he was innocent but acknowledged he had been friendly for many years with a Russian diplomat who worked for the KGB. That the Prime Minister was forced to quit before having been found formally guilty underlined the continuing potency of the past, and the extent to which nearly all senior east European politicians still live under its shadow.

The only former Warsaw Pact country that fully opened its files is the old East Germany, where anyone who worked for the secret police has been barred from public office and where everybody has been entitled to see their own files. Although the decision to open the files was controversial, it has been considered a success, ensuring that allegations are based on fact rather than rumour and allowing ordinary east Germans to find out at last who it was who was spying on them for all those years.

Mr Kwasniewski is involved in talks with party leaders aimed at agreeing a successor to Mr Oleksy. In the legislation he intends to present to parliament, he will propose a commission to oversee the files, now in the charge of the interior ministry. The commission is to have access to all pre-1989 files and, in special cases, more recent ones.

The President's former Communist party colleagues in the governing Democratic Left Alliance are likely to support the move. As part of their attempt to show themselves to be genuinely reformed social democrats, they want to be seen to be open and honest about their backgrounds.

Ironically, resistance to the new law is likely to come from the centre and right opposition parties, which feel the initiative is a smokescreen to deflect attention from the Oleksy affair.

Some analysts say the opening of the files could reveal more collaborators from the ranks of the old Solidarity movement than among the former Communists themselves.

But then, as the east Germans discovered, much of the information in the files was fabricated by agents over-anxious to please their bosses. And the files of many of the old Communists who really worked as informers mysteriously disappeared just before the final collapse of Communism in 1989.