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A new government programme for culture includes completing major investments, funds for heritage protection and a public online domain.

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Poland/ 1. Historical perspective: cultural policies and instruments  

Author: Dorota Ilczuk in cooperation with Malgorzata Nowak and Ewa Bender

One can identify two basic periods that characterise the development of Polish cultural policy in the last 60 years. Distinguishing features of the first period – real socialism – include limited sovereignty, a one-party system and a planned economy. The second period – liberal democracy and market economy – recovered Polish independence, introduced parliamentary democracy and principles for a market economy. 1989 is the watershed year that marked the shift between these two periods and the year when the first democratic parliamentary election was held in post-communist Poland.Warsaw by Night

Before 1989, cultural activities were organised under a system characterised by a high level of centralisation, institutionalisation and a monopoly of state property. Decisions made on the development of cultural activities were strongly politicised and the creative arts were under political censorship. The principles of cultural policy were created by both the Ministry of Culture and Arts and the Cultural Division of the Central Committee of the PZPR (Polish Communist Party). At the same time the growth rate of public cultural expenditure was higher than the growth rate of the GDP, which gave the state legitimacy to act in this field. The "Fund of Development for Culture" was established in 1982 as a means to secure this position. Between 1982 and 1989, expenditure on culture within the overall state budget rose from 1.25% to 1.81%. This relatively high level of public funding for culture enabled wider access to cultural goods and services and a feeling that professional stabilisation for artists working conditions was being achieved. 

After 1989, Poland underwent a process of political and economic transformation and the state re-established its new responsibilities with a social character. Those responsibilities were formulated in the introduction to the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. Article 73 directly refers to the field of culture and states that everyone is granted the right of freedom of creation, to conduct scientific research and announce their results, freedom of education and use of cultural assets.

The new principles for organising and financing cultural activities were formulated in 1993 and presented in the governmental document entitled The Principles of State Cultural Policy. According to this document, the Polish government should:

  • encourage the growth of democracy and the strengthening of civil society;
  • make it easier for artists and institutions to convert to the market economy;
  • protect the most precious cultural assets; and
  • introduce and encourage legal solutions which facilitate the development of new forms of cultural activity.

Cultural policy should therefore achieve the following goals:

  • decentralisation – shift competencies from the central administration to the provincial level, and from the provinces to the lower levels of administration: districts, municipalities and communes;
  • provide public financial support for selected cultural institutions and crucial cultural events; and
  • provide support for the development of non-public cultural institutions and funding mechanisms which could supplement the public funding of culture.

These goals are in support of the principles formulated in 1993.

Cultural policy priorities established by the Ministry of Culture for the newly established democracy were published in 1995. The three most important areas for state support were identified as books, the protection of national heritage and cultural education.

In 1998, a general framework was presented which identified the major directions and activities of the Ministry of Culture and Arts in the following areas:

  • to adopt a new approach that connects public and private funds;
  • to eliminate the stratification between the dynamics of culture and economic development;
  • to create a space for family oriented participation in culture;
  • to train managers and cultural animators;
  • to eliminate differences between high and popular culture;
  • to initiate activities that aim to reinforce the educational role of public media;
  • to encourage inter- ministerial co-operation for culture;
  • to protect the cultural heritage;
  • foreign promotion of Polish culture; and
  • support for research in the field of culture.

In 1999, the Directions of Cultural Policy of the State / Government was published and described the basic duties of the state in the following areas:

  • enhancement and development of the national civil community;
  • enhancement and dissemination of national heritage;
  • formation of principles aimed at supporting creativity and cultural education; and
  • foreign promotion of Polish culture.

Priorities established in 1998 and 1999 were carried out by the government with different levels of success. There were some concerns voiced over the long list of priorities and that they were being mixed up with principles. In fact, while there were several priorities listed, in practice, there were no priorities at all.

The years 2001 and 2002 can be considered a turning point when the Minister of Culture Andrzej Celiński's programme of reforms became the subject of consultations. The programme included comprehensive changes in the organisational and financial system for Polish culture. New sources of financing for culture were also proposed including financing culture from state lottery funds, which was eventually introduced. Still, the attempt to reform the general system of financing and organising the cultural sector turned out to be unsuccessful.

The following Minister of Culture, Waldemar DÄ…browski, specified new priorities for 2003 as follows:

  • strengthening the basic pillars of the national film industry, such as script-writing, production and distribution, by creating new conditions for funding;
  • promoting books and reading especially among children; emphasising the role of reading in the cultural formation of society; supporting cultural periodicals and literature (with a limited number of copies);
  • highlighting the mission of the public media and its contribution to national culture;
  • supporting activities aimed at broadening access to cultural goods for the disabled; and
  • supporting young artists.

In 2003, efforts were made to prepare Poland for gaining access to EU funds, especially Structural Funds. In this context, emphasis has been placed on developing regional approaches to the development of culture. In 2004, encouraging access to European Union funds was a priority for the Ministry of Culture. The document entitled The National Strategy for the Development of Culture (NSRK) for 2004-2007 was developed.

The strategic aim of the NSRK is "balanced development of culture in the regions". The strategy was created centrally for the fully territory of Poland but it defines coherent horizontal actions that are to be realised in the regions. The NSRK defines financial sources for the strategy, taking Structural Funds and other European funds into consideration.

The arrival of the National Development Programme for 2007-2013 forced the Minister of Culture to extend the period of the National Culture Development Strategy 2004-2013. As a result, a document extending the strategy was prepared, entitled the National Development Strategy Supplement for 2004-2020.

The strategic functional areas, set by the National Strategy for the Development of Culture as elements of the State's Cultural Policy, have been the basis for 5 National Culture Programmes.

The Programmes were designed as functional action plans and guidelines for implementation as well as tools for exact schedules of activity. Their aim was to enable monitoring and evaluation of the implementation process. In the following years, the ministers used the proposed formula and introduced new issues in place of National Cultural Programmes, commonly known as Minister's Programmes.

It should be also noticed that Minister of Culture, Waldemar DÄ…browski, made significant efforts to elaborate a new financing system for Polish cinematography. Unfortunately, he did not manage to carry out an eagerly awaited reform of Polish cultural policy.

Neither did his successor Kazimierz Michał Ujazdowski. He has been in office since the beginning of Jarosław Kaczyński's governance (2005). His governance realised an increase in public expenditure for cultural purposes, which was 22% more in 2006 than in the previous year. The cultural priority set by the government was the protection of national heritage and cultural identity, therefore Ujazdowski's policy successfully contributed to an improvement in this field which had been seriously neglected by previous governments.

Since 2007, Platforma Obywatelska (Civic Platform*) has been the ruling party having won two parliamentary elections. In 2011 the Civic Platform formed a coalition with Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (Polish People's Party) once again. The Minister of Culture and National Heritage – Bogdan Zdrojewski – took up his post in 2007 and again in 2011. The two-time success of one party, as well as the same minister continuing his mission, has never before occurred in the history of the young Polish democracy since 1989. It creates better conditions for realisation of the Minister's aims but expectations are higher than before. The initial intentions of conducting a wider reform of the whole financial system were presented at the Polish Culture Congress in 2009 and again proved to be impossible to implement. Instead of the "revolution" sought by the cultural circles, only a small reform was carried out. It concerned mainly the issue of management of public performing institutions. The first term of office of Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski has been measured mainly by the success in the use of European funds, Polish participation in the ECoC Programme, turning attention to the issue of digitalisation of culture and a very strong cultural component during the Polish Presidency of the EU. At the first press conference after second nomination (November 22nd 2011) the Minister said that completing the most important investments, increasing funds for heritage protection and building the public online domain are the key challenges for the upcoming 4 years.

(* The Civic Platform is a democratic and liberal-conservative political party. Since the 2007 general election, it is the largest party in the Parliament. The Civic Platform is a member of the European People's Party (EPP)).

(The information presented above is directly connected with the issues described in other chapters. To understand the topic completely, please read  chapter 2.1,  chapter 4.1 and  chapter 4.3).


Chapter published: 22-11-2012

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              Council of Europe/ERICarts, "Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 15th edition", 2014 | ISSN 2222-7334