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Poland/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model

When developing the new model for Polish cultural policy, various systems were considered. First, the old social democratic / social democracy approach was examined, but was quickly rejected as a basic model because it was demanding and related too much to the Communist era. During the first three years of transformation, there was strong support for a more neo-liberal approach, but it was then dismissed as an option for the future. Today the "third way" has become a popular approach. It is based on the welfare state model and advocates partnership between the state and an active civil society. Despite the potential role of third sector organisations – foundations or associations – they are still not regarded as real partners of local government administration or the state in the field of culture (e.g. as cultural managers or as agencies to distribute public funds).

In summary, the major changes which have taken place in the cultural sector since 1989 revolve around 6 main axes:

  • decentralisation of the powers of the public administration concerning culture;
  • transferring the majority of cultural institutions from the central government to local governments;
  • privatisation of the majority of government owned culture industries (publishing, cinema, galleries etc.);
  • abolishing censorship (waiving the requirement for formal authorisation to undertake artistic / cultural work);
  • ceasing detailed co-ordination and control of all levels of public spending on culture (especially from the Ministry and Voivode); and
  • general changes in the administration and regulations of the government which have had a major impact on culture.

Today, the Polish cultural policy model is characterised by a high level of decentralisation, which emphasises the important position and role of local governments.

The process of decentralisation for the management and financing of culture is connected to the introduction of various legal acts which initiated an overall reform of the national political system and transferred many competencies in the field of culture to local governments and their administration. For example, the 1990 Act on Local Government Administration states that responsibility for libraries and other institutions aimed at the local dissemination of culture is to be devolved to local governments.

As a result of the second phase in the overall administrative reform, two new tiers of local level management were established: provincial (Voivodeships) and district (Poviats). These two new levels became legally obliged to provide public activity within the area of "culture and protection of its goods". Responsibility for local culture activity and the establishment of local cultural institutions, once the sole domain of municipalities / communes, is now shared between the provincial, district and municipal / communal administrations (for more information see chapter 3.1 and chapter 3.2).

The gradual assumption of responsibility for culture by local governments was accompanied by a revamped of funding strategy, with local governments allocated 78.1% of public funds for culture in 2004 (79.4% in 2003; 81.1% in 2002). In the following years, the proportion remained quite steady (for more information see  chapter 6.2.2).

Changes in the public responsibility for culture came in the wake of a more general process of decentralisation of state powers and the subsequent reform of several laws. For example, overall tax law reforms and amendments which introduced relief and exemptions for people making charitable donations were also applicable to the cultural sector. One of the assumptions has been that the overall reforms will automatically be beneficial to the needs of the cultural sector and therefore it has not been actively involved in shaping, but rather adapting to the new realities in Poland. In recent years, the adaptation process has continued and has been aimed at assisting Polish culture to benefit from European Union funds.

Chapter published: 20-08-2015

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