Print this Page
Print this Page

Poland/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

During the first years of transformation, the cultural policy priorities have varied and were dependant on the current overall policy lines directly related to the priorities of the governing party. There have been shifts in emphasis from the protection of cultural heritage to support for contemporary creators or the economic value of culture. Often the priorities were only of a declarative character (for more information see chapter 1).

At the end of 2005, Michał Ujazdowski (related with the Law and Justice Party) became Minister of Culture. The name of the Ministry was changed from the Ministry of Culture to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (previously it was changed several times, corresponding to policy priorities). On the 17th of December 2005, during a press conference, the Minister presented guidelines for the cultural policy and protection of heritage programme. These were then included in a document: Policy on Support to the Field of Culture and National Heritage. The new Minister underlined the necessity of continuing the policy of his predecessor, especially as regards benefiting from the EU funds. At the same time he stressed the need to introduce a new priority into cultural policy - the broadly defined cultural heritage.

On the basis of the new guidelines, a list of priorities was created which formed the Minister's Operational Culture Programmes for 2006.

A résumé of Minister Ujazdowski's term was included in a document entitled Full-scale Patronage. Cultural Policy of the State in the Years 2005-2006. This is not a programme-shaping document; however, stress was placed on the new "patriotic" approach to national culture including traditional values, history (especially its chapters related to the struggle against foreign invasions and protection of national values) and homage to those who fought for the country's independence.

The aforementioned paper presents a rather one-sided vision of Polish cultural policies, focused on re-thinking and reformulating the image of national culture. It also illustrates a decrease in the level of decentralisation and confirms the Ministry's role as the main governing body in the field of culture.

In March 2007, "A Package for National Heritage" was introduced by the Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Kazimierz Michał Ujazdowski, and the General Inspector of Monuments, Tomasz Merta. The project assumed a structural reform and modernisation of the conservation services, improvement of the functioning of museums, maximum usage of the EU funds in the field of culture and an increase in funds for conservation and renovation works of historic buildings.

In October 2007, the Minister of Culture succeeded to increase overall funding for culture from the state budget of 4.5 Million PLN (1.19 Million EUR). For more information see chapter 4.2.2.

In November 2007, Bogdan Zdrojewski (Civic Platform Party) took up position as the new Minister of Culture and National Heritage. He has introduced significant changes to the operational programmes including shortening the list of priorities and amended the application regulations. The yearly updated operational programmes can be viewed at the Ministry's web site (

Since taking office, the Minister has started to prepare a reform of Polish cultural policy. As part of this process, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage organised the Congress of Polish Culture in Krakow in September 2009, the sixth edition since 1910, which involved artists, academics and politicians in a debate on the development of Polish culture. In preparation for the Congress, fifteen research groups were commissioned to prepare reports on various fields of culture – from financing to promotion of Polish culture abroad. The conclusions of the reports were presented during the Congress. The main reservations towards the reports concerned the substantive value and research methodology. Furthermore, the reports were a one-off action; there are no plans to draw up reports on the condition of Polish culture regularly, which would make future comparisons possible. Nevertheless, many of the reports are quoted here.

Apart from the animation of the cultural circles, which insist vociferously on systematic reform in the field of culture and understand the economic value of culture and its industries, the proposal to amend the existing Act on Conducting and Organising of Cultural Activity became the main substantial result of the Congress. The amendment to the Act was signed on the 31 of August 2011. The main changes introduced are: creation of "artistic institutions" (dealing with performing arts) as a special kind of cultural institution and introduction of new rules for the appointment of directors. The amendment removes the possibility of appointing the directors for an indefinite period, specifies procedures for conducting a contest for the position and conditions of appointment of a director without a contest. Also, it allows the concept of artistic season to be the basis for the organisation and implementation of the tasks of the arts and the ability to entrust the management of cultural institution to a legal or physical person. It also allows combining different forms of activities in a single cultural institution (e.g. merging a library with a culture house).

The priority in 2010 in the field of culture was celebrations of the Year of Fryderyk Chopin where total outlays come to 146.8 million PLN. The Ministry of Culture was also a leader in using EU funds. Over 34 agreements have been signed for an amount of 2 billion PLN, including 1.15 billion PLN from the European Regional Development Fund. Poland is also the biggest beneficiary of the EEA Financial Mechanism and the Norway Financial Mechanism; 87.7 million EUR was dedicated to investments in the field of culture.

In 2010, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage has recognised, as a main task, for the coming years a sweeping change for the way in which culture is perceived as unprofitable, anachronic and concentrated mainly at the preservation of cultural heritage. One of the tools here is the campaign led by the National Cultural Centre entitled Culture Counts! (Kultura się liczy!). It is aimed at increasing social awareness of the meaning of culture and its pro-development potential. The Ministry of Culture will also focus on the issue of digitalisation, cultural education and development of cultural institutions, especially libraries and cultural houses.

The year 2011 was dominated by the Polish Presidency in the EU Council so the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage realised the double task of:

  • being responsible for preparation and implementation of actions in the field of culture, audiovisual issues and copyright; and
  • coordinating the national and international cultural programme of the Polish Presidency.

The cultural programme constitutes an integral part of every presidency. Cultural events are dedicated to a wide audience at home and abroad. They also accompany the official meetings. The Ministry appointed two institutions responsible for preparation and realisation of the cultural programme: on the national level – the National Audiovisual Institute, and on the international level – the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Among the most important events of the Polish Presidency were:

  • a conference on the "Eastern Dimension of Mobility" (Warsaw, 6-7 July 2011) organised in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the European Commission, devoted to the Eastern Partnership (more information:;
  • an experts' conference on "Competences in Culture" (Warsaw, 18-20 July 2011) dedicated to the priorities of the Ministry of Culture in the field of culture, audiovisual issues and copyright (more information:;
  • a European Congress of Culture (Wroclaw, 8-11 September 2011) which was both the culminating point of the cultural programme of the Polish Presidency and an opportunity for deep reflection on culture. During the congress, an informal meeting of European ministers responsible for culture and audiovisual matters took place (more information:

In particular the last event, the European Congress of Culture, aroused interest among Polish and foreign media. The slogan of the Congress was: "Art for Social Change". The statistics of the Congress are impressive: 15 000 accredited participants, 500 curators of artistic events, 200 000 viewers, 126 accredited journalists, 100 NGOs from all over Europe. The special guest giving an opening lecture was Zygmunt Bauman. He said that "culture is the most important element of social capital of modern Europe and a source of needed change". Bauman talked also about multiculturalism, a necessity of cultivation acceptance attitudes and inclusion especially in the context of financial crisis. The panel discussions presented two visions of culture: as a branch of the economy, used for revitalisation of public spaces, building the image of a city and growth stimulation; and as critical or rebellious, with the ambition of inspiring civil consciousness and engagement of audiences. It is worth mentioning that the opinions assessing the level of discussion were diverse.

New plans of the Ministry for the next 4 years were outlined in November 2011 and include the aforementioned most important and most costly investments (such as II WW Museum, Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Shakespeare's Theatre, etc.). The Minister stated that this period will be a very good time for music due to investments in infrastructure which will enable us to make up for the last 50 years. Moreover, in 2012 a new educational portal "Muzykoteka" will be launched. The Minister committed himself to supporting so called small pacts for culture signed on the local level (for more information see chapter 8.4.3).

Chapter published: 20-08-2015

Your Comments on this Chapter?