Polish FM denies complicity in cash-for-visas affair
Zbigniew Rau, Poland's foreign minister, has said he does not feel complicit in a cash-for-visas affair gripping the government, saying it is not a scandal and that he is not considering resigning over the matter.
Polish prosecutors have brought charges against seven people, three of whom are currently under pre-trial detention, in a visa issuance scandal that has cost a deputy foreign minister his job.
Prosecutors said the visa applications concerned foreigners submitting applications to Polish diplomatic missions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the Philippines and Qatar.
The Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper wrote last week that Poland's Foreign Ministry might have allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants to come to Europe.
The affair has come as an awkward blow for a government that has made controlling immigration central to its campaign for Poland's October 15 general election.
But the foreign minister dismissed the matter as media exaggeration.
Speaking at a brief briefing after arriving in New York on Sunday for a five-day visit for the 78th UN General Assembly, Zbigniew Rau said: "I do not feel complicit, I am not considering tendering my resignation, and there is no visa scandal.... When we look at the data, it is enough to show that in Poland in 2022 we issued as many Schengen visas as is proportionate: per thousand inhabitants of Poland we granted almost two visas. Over the same period, our French partners issued 20 visas per 1,000 inhabitants and Germany 10."
Rau said Polish prosecutors were looking into irregularities concerning the issuance of about 200 documents, which he compared to the 2 million visas Poland had issued over the last 30 months, of which more than 1.5 million were granted to Ukrainians and Belarusians.
"If it is the scandal of the century, I would prefer to talk about the flood of fake news," Rau said. Asked if nothing had happened, he replied: "Of course nothing has happened."