The debate that took place in Poland in 2002 was one of the first attempts in years to undertake a wide public discussion on comprehensive changes in the field of culture. On the 6th of April, the debate “Chance for Culture” was held in the Warsaw Castle with the participation of the Prime Minister, the Marshal of the Parliament (Sejm), representatives of the President, the Minister of Culture and members of the artistic community. The main issue of debate was the programme introduced by Andrzej Celiński (Minister of Culture) concerning organisational and financial changes to the cultural sector.
The theoretical background of the proposed ministerial programme was brought about through a set of reports concerning the organisational and financial system of managing culture in Poland. Dorota Ilczuk (the Jagiellonian University) and Wojciech Misiąg (Gdansk Institute of Market Economies) were the authors of the complex reform project including: new sources of financing, the role and tasks of the government, creating conditions to encourage the private sector to finance culture and proposals for new legislation regarding cultural activities.
Andrzej Celiński ran his term of office and left the Ministry in July 2002. The main financial instrument emerging from the report to be realised in 2002 was the proposal to use lottery funds for cultural purposes. Indirectly – through the Act on Public Benefit Activity and Voluntary Work – the 1% principle of tax for public benefit purposes (including cultural ones) was implemented – although it only refers to non-governmental organisations. Work on legislation regarding cultural activities was suspended.
The year 2003 brought an intensified interest, among those working within the culture sector, in Poland’s accession to the EU and its influence on the development of Polish culture. At that time, it was the private sector that came forward to meet the expectations of the cultural community. The Polish Confederation of Private Employers, and its Culture and Business Working Group, organised a debate entitled “The European Union and Culture: Is it really only about money?” held at the Warsaw Castle on the 14th of May 2003. The goal of the debate was to find out what kind of help can be expected from the EU, but also, how the culture sector will have to adjust to the EU. Experts from many EU countries, representatives of the president’s office and of the Ministry of Culture as well as representatives from the cultural community took part in the debate. Shortly afterwards, the Minister of Culture created a new post to deal with structural funds and appointed a Task Force for Structural Funds (within the National Cultural Centre).
The year 2004 was dominated by public interest in the National Strategy for the Development of Culture (2004-2007) prepared by the Ministry of Culture. During conferences and seminars, discussions were held on the aims of the Strategy and its potential effectiveness. Attention was drawn to its implementation (or lack of it) and to modern civilisation challenges, especially issues concerning the building of an information society.
In 2006, the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage successfully proposed to change the official name of the former Nazi concentration camp situated in Oświęcim (formerly Auschwitz). In March 2006, an official motion was presented to UNESCO and it was finally accepted at the organisation’s session in Wellington, New Zealand in 2007. Since then the official name of the Nazi camp is: the Former Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz – Birkenau. The Ministry’s action was carried out in reaction to a number of articles in the foreign press where Nazi camps existing on the territory of Poland during the World War II were dishonestly named “Polish”.
The year 2009 will be remembered as the year of the Congress of Polish Culture (for more information on that event see chapter 2.1).
The debate of the Congress also concerned financing of culture. The social initiative Citizens of Culture (Obywatele Kultury) made an appeal to the Prime Minister to designate 1% of the state budget for culture at the disposal of the Minister of Culture (for more information chapter 1.2.5). The government’s commitment to this fund was included in the Pact for Culture signed on 14 May 2011 and was concluded between the Council of Ministers of Republic of Poland represented by the Prime Minister and the social side represented by the Citizens of Culture (for further information see chapter 1.2.5).
On June 21st 2011, Wroclaw was appointed as European Capital of Culture for 2016. 5 cities took part in the final selection (Gdańsk, Katowice, Lublin, Warszawa and Wrocław). The competition provoked a nationwide debate on local cultural policies and their directions. It also forces candidate cities into long-term planning in the field of culture.
Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement provoked a heated discussion about copyright. Although Bogdan Zdrojewski, Minister of Culture and National Heritage, stated that ratification of ACTA by Poland will not influence the existing legal system, it met with great reluctance. The probability of signing the agreement by the Polish government resulted in strong social support for the Anonymous Group among Polish Internet users, who feared restrictions on freedom of expression and other rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. There have been cases of virtual attacks on government websites. Numerous protests took place, of which the largest was held in Krakow, with about 15 000 protesters. During the vote in the European Parliament on ACTA, all Polish MEPs present at the vote spoke against it.
City of Warsaw
Although cultural policy on the central level is still under debate, there are visible trends to set up coherent and long term policies at local levels. Warsaw is a good example in this case. It is possible that after the acceptance of the “Warsaw until 2020 – Strategic Plan for Culture”, Warsaw will be one of the few Polish cities to have a clearly defined cultural policy with specific objectives for the following years. The basis for this Programme (the so called White Paper on Culture in Warsaw) was prepared in 2008 by the Pro Cultura Foundation under the commission of the Culture Department of the City of Warsaw. Consultations have been held and the programme was approved by Warsaw City Council on 29 March 2012.
City of Bydgoszcz
Bydgoszcz is the first and so far the only Polish city that signed the Agenda 21 for Culture. It is also a great example of social activity in the field of culture triggered by the ECoC 2016. On December 7th 2011 the local Pact for Culture has been signed by the representatives of city authorities and Citizens Council for Culture (which is a local branch of Citizens of Culture movement). The Pact is the result of Culture Congress in Bydgoszcz (held in September 2011) and constitutes a unique for Poland social agreement on cultural management. Thanks to the Pact creators, artists and cultural animators were given a real chance to influence the shaping of cultural life in the city. The mayor and the city council resigned some of the rights reserved so far for the local authorities for the benefit of the social side. The representatives of the Citizens Council for Culture take part in creation of city’s development strategy – Masterplan for Culture in Bydgoszcz. Among the detailed regulations contracted within the Pact there are: the possibility to co-create by the social side the rules and regulations concerning grants in the field of culture and civic participation in the process of creation of city’s budget as well as in the monitoring of financing of culture. Bydgoszcz has also declared to raise its expenditure on culture in the following years by at least 1 million PLN yearly.
In 2014 years Polish artists turned to producers of smartphones and tablets with aproposal to introduce a tax on mobile devices. Their main slogan was “Do not kill us!”. Collective Management Organisations of Copyright want to add the smartphones and tablets to the list of so-called “blank discs”. These are the media in which price the fee, which goes to organisations of copyright administration, is included. The idea has not been positively received neither by producers of electronics nor by the Ministry of Culture. However, in its Communication the Ministry of Culture emphasizes that the system of charges on blank discs and electronic devices needs to be updated.
Museum of John Paul II and Primate Wyszynski
In the budget for 2015 foresees 16 million PLN for the construction of the Museum of John Paul II and Primate Wyszynski. This caused outrage among many commentators and citizens. There were questions on how this grant will be used. Temple of Divine Providence, where a museum is located, is still under construction. This led to the suspicion that the money from the grant will be used to build a church. An expression of opposition to the transfer of such sums to the museum at the Temple of Divine Providence was a protest, which took place on 20 December 2014. Its organisers reminded that in February 2014 Museum of John Paul II and Primate Wyszynski got 6 million PLN grant for improvement of cultural infrastructure. This represented a third of all the funds allocated for this funding line by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. In total, since 2008, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage had already forwarded 44 million to build a museum in the Temple of Divine Providence.