The Polish MEP also made an independent trip to Azerbaijan

“Today is a great moment for us to strengthen our cooperation. As a Polish parliamentarian, I will make efforts to strengthen cooperation between Polish and Azerbaijani companies.”

This was stated by Tomasz Poręba, of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, in Azeri state media in Baku last July.

He called for closer ties between Poland, Europe and Azerbaijan in an interview titled “Poland needs gas”, which Azerbaijan wants to sell to the EU in larger quantities.

Poręba was there as an MEP and as a member of the Transport Committee of the European Parliament (Tran), according to an official report by the Azerbaijani parliament, the Milli Majlis, and several media reports from the Azerbaijani government at the time.

He also visited the war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh region, where senior EU diplomats fear to tread in case it stokes tensions with Armenia.

But Poręba did not bother to declare the visit in his European Parliament register, as required by the code of conduct.

And the Tran committee has no record of him having traveled there on its behalf, which amounts to deja vu on three other MEPs, who undertook similar trips last year.

When the Swedish investigative news site Blankspot contacted Poręba, his Belgian law firm replied that Poręba was not in Azerbaijan in his capacity as an MEP, but simply as the chairman of New Direction, his group. of right-wing reflection in Brussels.

Poręba was accompanied by New Direction executive director Witold de Chevilly, the law firm said.

The think tank paid for the entire trip, the lawyers said.

And if the Azerbaijani media claimed that Poręba represented someone other than New Direction, it was simply the error of the journalists, they added.

But even though New Direction paid for it all, the MEP still should have declared it as a gift worth more than €150 in his European Parliament register – which he did not.

And if Poręba’s trip had nothing to do with his status as an MEP, then the Azerbaijani Embassy to the EU told a contradictory story.

Poręba and three other MEPs who visited Azerbaijan last year (Andris Ameriks, Franc Bogovič and Engin Eroglu) were all invited by the “EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Cooperation Committee in the Parliament of Azerbaijan”, the President said. embassy to EUobserver on 3 February.

Azerbaijan’s ambassador to the EU, Vaqif Sadıqov, helped organize their trips as part of his normal duties, the embassy added in a lengthy email, which never mentioned New Direction.

Meanwhile, some MEPs later admitted that Azerbaijan had paid for their hotels in Baku and excursions to the mountainous and remote region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

But the Azerbaijani Embassy denied this, further muddied the waters.

“Neither Mr. Poręba nor the other members of the European Parliament received ‘free hospitality’. If you are referring to small gestures such as the offer of tea, coffee or soft drinks, then, yes, they were provided,” EUobserver said.

“Expenses such as flights, hotels are covered by the guests themselves,” he said.

There is no suggestion that any of the four MEPs broke any laws in their dealings with the petro-dictatorship.

But Azerbaijan has a reputation for sowing EU disinformation as well as so-called “caviar diplomacy” – lavish hospitality for foreign figures, making it a controversial friend.

The way Poręba and others have flouted the European Parliament’s transparency rules also gives a bad image to Brussels, following the Qatargate corruption scandal.

Fellow MEP, German Green Niklas Nienaß, has resigned from a cross-party parliamentary group, following earlier revelations about their coasting Azeri excursions.

And this survey sheds light on how foreign regimes win friends and influence people in the EU power bubble.


Returning to Poręba, the 49-year-old Pole did not start as a friend of Azerbaijan.

Baku declared him persona non grata when he visited Nagorno-Karabakh in 2010 – long before Azerbaijan recaptured parts of the region from Armenian-Karabakh forces in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020.

He went there as European Parliament rapporteur on Armenia.

But in 2019, Poręba signed a letter declaring full respect for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and her visa ban was lifted.

And his trip back to Azerbaijan in July 2022 was his first since then.

He did not give a reason for the reversal of his sympathies, but since his return from Baku, Poręba has worked hard to bring Europe and Poland closer to Azerbaijan.

He submitted a proposal to connect European transport corridors to Azerbaijan via Turkey last November.

He called a special meeting with Azerbaijan’s transport minister on the corridors in December.

And he discussed the same topic with a think tank belonging to Tural Ganyaliyev, an Azerbaijani MP who accompanied him and the other three MPs on their trips to Azerbaijan.

Poręba and his former travel companion, de Chevilly, pleaded for the opening of the Zangezur corridor – a very sensitive road, the status of which is still being negotiated by Armenia and Azerbaijan and which remains closed for the instant.

Azeri media continue to report that Poręba conducts his meetings as a member of the Tran committee, even though Tran says he has no record of him representing them there.

Blurred lines

And on occasion, Poręba’s commitment goes far beyond any European mandate he might have.

When Azerbaijan attacked Armenia in September 2022, Poręba used his airwaves to denounce Armenia as a close ally of Russia.

In December, he also made a public statement about the quality of an Azerbaijani football club, Qarabag Agdam, while adding that he had helped two Polish coaches to get an internship with the team.

This is how Poręba, once an enemy of the state, became another friend of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in the heart of the EU.

And that’s why MEPs’ blurring lines between independent friendships, official committee roles and their gold and blue European Parliament badges create a source of concern in the post-Qatargate atmosphere.


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