Print this Page
Print this Page

Poland has appealed for new domains to be added to ERDF funding criteria specific to the cultural sector in Poland.

Show all Profile-News...

Poland/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.3 European / international actors and programmes

Poland became a party to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1976. Since then it has been involved in the work of the World Heritage Committee aimed at the preservation and conservation of cultural properties. As a result of these efforts two Polish cultural and natural sites were included on the prestigious World Heritage List two years later (in 1978) - Cracow Historical Centre and Wieliczka Salt Mine. Since 2006 there are 13 Polish cultural and natural properties on the List, the latest being Hala Stulecia (Century Hall) in Wroclaw. It is a unique ferroconcrete construction designed by Max Berg in the years 1911-1913.

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was ratified in Poland in August 2007. The convention was adopted through a simplified procedure by the government without parliamentary voting. However, the adoption of this important document hasn't been followed so far by any initiatives aimed at setting up a special coalition of politicians, artists and UNESCO national commission representatives (similar to those in Germany, Canada and Switzerland) that could contribute to and benefit from ratification of the convention within cultural circles. A delegation of the Ministry took part in the Second Ordinary Session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention (Paris, 15-17 June 2009). The Conference approved draft operational guidelines for the implementation of Articles 7, 8, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18 of the Convention. In 2012 UNESCO initiated preparation of reports concerning the efforts and activities helping the preservation and promotion of culture and its forms of expression between years 2008 and 2011, in all countries that approved the Convention. The first part of the Polish report touches upon the issue of diversity of culture and its place in national cultural policy, including forming new trends, realising citizens' rights to freedom of creative activities and benefiting from cultural goods. Therefore the document applies mainly to activities of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. The report focuses on such cultural policy areas as: preservation of tangible and intangible heritage, collection and presentation of museum properties, promotion of multicultural dialogue, and support for the production of cultural goods and services and shaping cultural and artistic competencies. The activities of the Polish Committee for UNESCO were also taken into account. Issues concerning preservation and promotion of cultural diversity are of course much wider than cultural policy field of interest. Culture is an important element of foreign affairs policy, racial minority policy or development policy. Those issues were raised in the following parts of the report, including the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Administration and Digitisation. The report describes also examples of civic society movements and NGO initiatives, which are crucial for the Convention. It is worth emphasising that the economic convergence, unfettered opportunity to travel, common rules in many spheres of activities in the EU countries also foster cooperation in the field of culture in the form of elimination of cultural barriers and encouraging of cross-border co-operation between cities, institutions and individual artists. Public authorities responsible for Polish international cooperation are primarily the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, together with subordinate institutions. The major international cooperation programmes held in Poland are the Eastern Partnership and ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting). The Polish Presidency within the EU Council in 2011 was also an opportunity to establish closer cooperation with artists from countries of Eastern Europe such as: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldavia and the Ukraine. The elaboration of the report was crucial to identify challenges for the future and indicate fields where intensified actions are required in order to popularise the Convention's guidelines. The final part of the report summarises the main achievements so far and lists the main tasks for the future.

Poland participates in the UNESCO programme Memory of the World established in 1992 aimed at preservation and dissemination of valuable archive holdings and library collections worldwide. The first meeting of the International Advisory Committee took place in 1993 in Pultusk (Poland). Currently there are 27 on-going Memory of the World Projects including Memory of Poland which contains collections registered on the world and national registers: Nicolaus Copernicus' masterpiece "De revolutionibus libri sex", the masterpieces of Fryderyk Chopin, and Warsaw Ghetto Archives (Emanuel Ringelblum Archives). The programme had its 20th anniversary in 2012. As part of the commemorations an experts' meeting was held in Warsaw, Poland, from 8th to 10th May 2012. The meeting was organised by UNESCO, hosted by the government of Poland and attended by 50 experts covering different geographic areas and professional expertise, containing a blend of representatives of the different structures of the Programme on international, regional and national levels.

In the framework of co-operation with the Council of Europe, Polish activity is aimed at the enhancement of the protection of monuments on the international level. This means comprehensive Polish involvement in some important Council of Europe projects: European Heritage Days (since 1999) and HEREIN (since 2000).

Polish presence in the Council of Europe has been strongly enhanced since its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers from November 2004 until May 2005. Poland took the initiative to organise the opening conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the European Cultural Convention, which concluded with the adoption of the Wroclaw Declaration, acrucial document for the future of the Council of Europe-led collaboration in the areas of culture. In addition, the Third Summit of the Heads of State held in Warsaw in May 2005 adopted two important documents referring to the guidelines for future action in the area of European unity, European values and challenges for co-operation: the Warsaw Declaration and Action Plan.

Prior to taking up membership in the European Union in 2004, Poland had already participated in some of the EU funding programmes. Since EU accession, Poland has benefited from the Structural Funds.

The European Union Programme Culture 2000, which Poland joined in 2001, created the possibility for the promotion of Polish culture via multilateral co-operation with cultural organisations from other Member States. Polish participation in Culture 2000 constantly grew: in 2001 Polish operators were involved in 14 projects, with the figure rising to 46 projects in 2005 – involving 79 Polish organisations. The total EU funding for the year 2005 was 6 million EUR. According to the Polish Culture Contact Point, statistics on projects involving Polish beneficiaries in the Culture 2007 Programme, in the years 2007 – 2012, show that 154 Polish institutions and organisations took part in 163 projects. Polish representatives were leaders in 30 projects, and in the remaining 133 they were co-organisers.

In 2004, Poland was given access to the European Union Structural Funds and other aid lines. Among the 7 Operational Programmes for the years 2004-2006, the most important for Polish culture was the Integrated Regional Operational Programme – IROP (Zintegrowany Program Operacyjny Rozwoju Regionalnego - ZPORR), financed from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund. Most of the projects of national importance were realised in the framework of Priority 1 - Development and modernisation of the infrastructure to enhance the competitiveness of regions, measure for the Development of Tourism and Culture. According to the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, in the framework of IROP (measure for the Development of Tourism and Culture), in the years 2004-2006, 837 million PLN was spent on the realisation of 81 projects.

The aid lines for the years 2007-2013 are far more developed and consist of 4 National Operational Programmes, 16 regional operational programmes, the Operational Programme Development for Eastern Poland and several transnational and transregional co-operation lines. In the field of culture, the most important are the:

  • Operational Programme – Infrastructure and Environment (Program Operacyjny Infrastruktura I Środowisko), financed from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund, especially priority XI – Culture and Cultural Heritage;
  • Operational Programme – Human Capital (Program Operacyjny Kapitał Ludzki), financed from the European Social Fund (ESF), and
  • Regional Programmes, financed from the European Regional Development Fund. The priorities and measures of these programmes vary and reflect regional needs. Each of the programmes enables realisation of cultural projects.

Poland has made great use of the EU financial support in the field of culture. Recent studies (e.g. "Culture and Structural Funds in Poland", 2012, as a part of research conducted by the European Expert Network on Culture on the commission of DG EAC) show it is the largest beneficiary of the Structural Funds in the current funding period. Moreover, with over 1 billion EUR, Poland is the country that devotes more funding to culture within the SF in absolute terms.

The Polish government, in its official statement on detailed regulations on the functioning of the European Regional Development Fund 2014-2020, highlighted the necessity to supplement the domains eligible for support and investment priorities, listed in the European Commission's "Elements for a Common Strategic Framework 2014 to 2020". The new areas are: cultural heritage preservation contributing to the improvement of settlement, investment and tourist attractiveness of regions; cultural infrastructure, including cultural institutions and cultural / artistic education, in the field of both improving its previous condition and creating new buildings which guarantees the possibility of raising consumer cultural competences and constant investment in human capital; and digitalisation of cultural goods as necessary for cultural heritage preservation and its wide dissemination, including universal access to via the Internet. These proposals are strictly connected with the Polish situation and needs in the field of culture. When accessing the EU, Poland was on a different (disadvantaged) developmental stage than the so-called "old" Member States. The list of examples proving the specific situation of Poland was long. Among the most important were: long-term negligence in the area of cultural heritage protection with its great richness but also enormous needs in restoration and fatal technical condition; expanded but outdated cultural infrastructure; artistic education of good quality but without modern infrastructure; weak cultural education connected with underdeveloped cultural competences of consumers; as well as the appalling low level of digitisation in the field of culture. The Structural Funds used by Poland contributed significantly to improving this situation. Yet, there are still many things to do, especially regarding the condition of monuments, infrastructure for culture and cultural education as well as digitalisation. The development of modern cultural education (especially extramural) and consumer cultural competencies is and should be further supported by the European Social Fund.

The Polish government's reaction to the European Commission's proposals for investment in liberating an innovative approach to the creative sector instead of care for cultural heritage in the years 2014-2020, devoid of uncritical Euro-enthusiasm and protecting the previous priorities is fully justified by the situation in Poland. It is important to highlight that the meaning of the creative sector in economic development, including job creation, is not questioned. However, the above mentioned report's authors were rather moderate than enthusiastic to the idea of Structural Funds investment in the creative sector. Firstly, it is a result of insufficient diagnosis of this area as well as absence of public awareness about the socio-economic potential of the creative sector in Poland. Lack of consensus on the choice of creative sector domains, in which state intervention would be necessary, is also an extremely important issue. In order to change this situation, conducting in-depth research, promoting the results and wide consultations with potential stakeholders (public authorities, cultural institutions, artists, scientists, private entrepreneurs, NGOs) are essential. Therefore, the report suggested that the list of priority domains of investment of Structural Funds in years 2014-2020 should include also infrastructure for monitoring and research on the creative sector at the national and local level. Without this infrastructure and without research and monitoring in that field it is impossible to think seriously of efficient Structural Funds investment in the creative sector. Considering the perspective of culture and even the whole creative sector funding from the Structural Funds in the years 2014-2020, one cannot ignore the issue of the lack of systematic collecting of data on the cultural sector in Poland, including its public financing. For experts it is obvious that this information enables more efficient action, evaluation of particular investment effects, responding to threats or creating real and achievable development visions. It, however, still remains underestimated by authorities responsible for shaping cultural policy both at national and local level. Therefore, the proposal supported by the European Commission to put greater emphasis on outcome indicators rather than performance in created systems of monitoring of the Structural Funds is welcome. For more information see:

According to the information provided by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the co-financing within the priority XI – Culture and Cultural Heritage of Operational Programme – Infrastructure and Environment will reach 3.8 billion PLN by the end of 2012. By the end of 2011, 78 projects had received co-financing. 21 new and renovated premises have been supported, including the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, the Galician Market in Sanok, the Millenium Amphitheatre in Opole, and the Philharmonics in Częstochowa. In 2012, 13 projects gained co-financing in the overall amount of 176.58 million PLN.

Poland is a member of Visegrad Group (V4), which reflects the efforts of the countries of the Central European region to work together in a number of fields of common interest relating to European integration. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have historically been part of one civilisation sharing cultural and intellectual values and common roots of religious traditions which they wish to preserve and further strengthen. All the V4 countries aspired to become members of the European Union, perceiving their integration in the EU as another step forward in the process of overcoming artificial dividing lines in Europe through mutual support. They reached this aim on 1 May 2004 when they all became members of EU.

All of the activities of the Visegrad Group are aimed at strengthening stability in the Central European region. The participating countries perceive their cooperation as a challenge and its success as the best proof of their ability to integrate into structures such as the European Union. In order to support multilateral co-operation the Visegrad Fund was established in 2000. The mission of the Fund is to promote the development of closer cooperation between the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia and strengthening of ties between these states. The fund supports the development of common cultural, scientific research, and educational projects, exchanges between young people, promotion of tourism and cross-border cooperation. The budget of the Fund is created by equal annual contributions of the four Member States (for more information see:

The current activity of the V4 Group in the field of culture is focused on matters connected with participation in EU bodies as well as on current issues like the protection of cultural heritage or the role and functioning of libraries. Presently, the V4 Group is seeking a platform of co-operation with partners from the Ukraine and Belarus.

Poland is also a member of Ars Baltica – created in 1989 as a forum for multilateral cultural co-operation with an emphasis on common projects within the Baltic Sea Region. It gives priority to art, culture and cultural history. The intention of Ars Baltica is to enhance cultural identity in the Baltic Sea Region and also to realise projects of European significance. Its goal is to implement common projects, with the intention that they will become regular networks of individuals and organisations. Co-operation between the members is carried out by meetings, exchanges of information and joint projects. There are 10 member countries including: Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia and Sweden). A number of Polish cultural operators have been involved in projects such as the: Towns on the Baltic Coast and their Common Heritage and Baltic Culture and Tourism Fortresses' Route.

Poland is a member of CEEPUS – Central European Exchange Programme for University Studies which was established in 1993. The member states are: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Hungary, and the Ukraine. In the framework of this programme, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage supports international exchange of students of from higher arts education institutions (high schools) and provides funding for study visits.

Chapter published: 20-08-2015

Your Comments on this Chapter?