The European Union and Germany called on the Polish government on Wednesday to clarify suspicions of serious visa fraud that could affect its neighbors in the EU.
Polish media reports stated that a system had been put in place to grant Schengen visas to people from the Middle East and Africa in exchange for money, through Polish consulates and some foreign companies in the countries concerned.
In light of the high level of tension within the European Union regarding immigration, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser called her Polish counterpart, Mariusz Kaminski, on Tuesday, while her ministry summoned Warsaw’s ambassador to Berlin over the issue, according to officials.
During the talks, Berlin demanded that Warsaw provide a quick and complete clarification of these serious accusations.
The European Commission gave Warsaw two weeks on Wednesday to provide clarifications of the accusations, describing the reports as very disturbing.
The German summons sparked an angry response from Kaminsky, who rejected what he considered ridiculous claims regarding the scope of the case.
“Unfortunately, the German press has clung to the opposition’s completely ridiculous narrative regarding the scale of the issue we are dealing with,” Kaminski told Polish radio Zeit.
He added, “I spoke to the German Minister of the Interior yesterday… and she clarified the true scope” of the cases mentioned.
Authorities in Warsaw say the plan may have involved a few hundred Polish work visas, while the Polish opposition says the actual number may be around 250,000.
Last week, Polish intelligence announced the detention of seven people in the scandal ahead of the elections scheduled for October 15, in which the ruling party is running on an anti-immigration platform.
Three of the seven remain in detention, according to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which is leading an investigation into suspected visa fraud.
Polish media reported that the Foreign Ministry was involved in the scheme, which the opposition Civic Platform party described as “Poland’s biggest scandal of the 21st century”.
Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk resigned over the scandal last week, although the official reason for his resignation was lack of sufficient cooperation.
Meanwhile, and according to German interior ministry, Berlin is seeking information from Warsaw regarding the number of visas issued, the date of their issuance, and the nationalities of the people who obtained them.
Warsaw provided a briefing to Berlin regarding the investigation without revealing additional details.
German federal police had already stepped up checks at the Polish border before the scandal due to an increasing influx of migrants into the Schengen area, which includes more than 20 European countries.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has for years used anti-immigrant rhetoric that was seen as one of the main reasons for its victory in the 2015 parliamentary elections.
Last year, Poland completed the construction of a steel barrier along the border to prevent the entry of migrants, while thousands of soldiers were deployed at the site.
Warsaw accused Minsk and Moscow of being behind the influx of migrants in a hybrid attack aimed at destabilizing the region, a charge Minsk denies.