Energy, Euro, climate, and EU funds

Energy

Among the topics that enjoyed lively interest of both politicians and public opinion in Poland, was the question of energy including both energy sources imported from Russia, as well as the problem of climatic change occurring due to energy production technologies linked with emissions of greenhouse gases.

The first problem is treated by public opinion not as a purely business issue, but rather as the one that is being linked with Russia’s policy, tending to treat energy sources as instruments of foreign policy. Therefore, Poland is deeply interested in both the EU member states solidarity on the energy question and diversification of supply sources in order to diminish dependence on Russia. Poland is also against building the Baltic and Black Sea underwater gas pipes and supports at the same time the Nabucco and Jamal two pipes, running via Belarus and Poland. Therefore, “Gazprom” maneuvers aiming at the establishment of a gas cartel following OPEC or the attempts at controlling gas deposits outside Russian borders are very carefully observed in Poland.[1] On the other hand, all signals and decisions on the EU side reflecting the implementation of energy solidarity are being welcomed with great satisfaction.[2]

Poland’s energy industry is mostly based on hard coal. Therefore, the government and Polish public opinion are being highly involved in the debates over the Energy and Climate Change Package, whose adoption in the original form would mean serious troubles for the Polish economy and the drastic price rise of energy for households.[3] At the same time, one should note that Poles are not against environmental policies aimed at climate preservation: according to the poll of 14 November 2008, 71 percent of the respondents are convinced that we should combat climatic changes even if it is disadvantageous for economic growth. However, only 1-5 of the respondents would accept the energy price rise higher than 20 percent,[4] while the adoption of the original version of the package would mean the increase in energy prices even by 100 percent.

Introduction of the Euro in Poland

First, government announcements came during the Economic Forum in Krynica in September 2008 and were later repeated in the declaration by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who announced that the government will see to finish the preparatory works until mid 2011[5] with adoption of appropriate road map measures. Later on, the decision was modified yet the Finance Minister, Jacek Rostowski, declared its determination to introduce the Euro in Poland in 2012.[6] On 30 December 2008 the government adopted the Convergence Programme. The government adopted on 28 October 2008 a 2008 Update, which contains a macroeconomic and fiscal prognosis with the view of fulfilling nominal convergence criteria to exchange Polish Zloty with the Euro on 1 January 2012, what is in accordance with the Timetable of integration with the Eurozone.[7]

The government declaration of September 2008 (consulted with the Monetary Policy Council and the Head of the National Bank of Poland[8]) and later announcements regarding introducing the Euro in Poland have raised a vivid debate over the proposal among the political parties in Poland accompanied by a number of media comments and public opinion polls.

Experts’ views

In view of the experts, 2011 is an extremely short time for the adoption of the Euro; however, this is good news for Poland, especially after Poland has lost the opportunity to adopt the Euro in 2009. With this fast track way to the Euro, Poland still seems to be capable of fulfilling the economic criteria on time.[9] Dariusz Filar, a member of the Monetary Policy Council, noted that there is a chance of Poland joining the Eurozone in 2011 on the condition that inflation is kept below the reference threshold.[10]

According to Bohdan Wyżnikiewicz, from the “Institute for Market Economics”, the declaration by the Prime Minister on Poland’s entry into the Eurozone is the best possible message for businesses in Poland. According to the expert, the decision is right and will help the Polish economy; however, the main tasks are 1) to convince the society that introducing the Euro does not necessarily mean a rise of prices and 2) controlling the process so that change of currency will not cause price rise.[11]

Business views

According to the “Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan”, the introduction of the Euro may strongly support economic growth in Poland or, it may not bring any significant effect. The realization of the first scenario requires – according to the Confederation – fast and significant reforms to take place, the ones that will make Poland’s economy more flexible, more responsive to changes in demand and supply in the lack of monetary policy and exchange rate mechanisms. The confederation has also formulated five conditions for the successful and secure adoption of the Euro: 1) lowering fiscal burden to increase savings and private investments; 2) increase in vocational activities, especially among those over 50 to increase work supply and limit budgetary spending; 3) to increase spending on infrastructures, education, research and development with accompanying decrease in public spending in GDP; 4) speeding up the privatization process to better use the existing resources and decrease the borrowing needs of the state; 5) liberalization of the economy and the abolition of obstacles in entrepreneurship development by simplification of economic and fiscal laws, administrative procedures as well as the improvement of functioning of the economic administration and courts.[12]

According to the declaration signed by the Vice-President of the “Business Centre Club”, the Prime Minister’s announcement of the government’s plans regarding the adoption of the Euro were both surprising and excellent decisions, especially taking into account the business representatives who had for a long time, requested fast integration within the Eurozone. According to the same document, Poland has lost last three years, when Poland was able to fulfill the criteria enabling her to take decision on adoption of the Euro. The declaration by the Prime Minister has been welcomed with satisfaction and the author expressed his hope that the declaration will also really mean strong determination.[13]

Political parties views

The series of consultations with the major political forces in Poland, including the Prime Minister’s talks with the heads of the parliamentary clubs of major parties represented in Sejm, as well as numerous media interviews, have shown that the main division line is that between the Law and Justice (PiS) Party and the rest of the parliamentary parties (both governmental Civil Platform (PO) and the Polish Peasants’ Party (PSL) as well as the opposition force left parliamentary club). A position similar to that of PiS has also been demonstrated by the President of the Republic and its Chancellery.

The main questions concerned: the very idea of introducing the common European currency, the date of introducing the Euro and the necessary changes in Poland’s constitutional law as well as the question of a referendum.

The head of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), Jaroslaw Kaczynski, declared already on 19 September 2008 that the Euro in Poland “will ruin the pensioners”, while – in his view – the very proposal to introduce the Euro by the governing Civic Platform marks the beginning of the Civic Platform’s European Parliament electoral campaign. Jaroslaw Kaczynski stressed that introducing the Euro in Poland in 2011 would be harmful for the citizens and that Poland could enter the Eurozone in 2020 or 2025 when the gap between Poland and richer EU members will be smaller.[14] On 8 December 2008, Jaroslaw Kaczynski declared that Poland should not introduce the Euro in the light of the current economic crisis;[15] while after a series of talks with the Prime Minister, he declared that the Law and Justice party will support the necessary constitutional changes on condition that a Euro referendum is held together with the European Parliament elections in June 2009.[16]

The talks on the introduction of the Euro in Poland proved that the Civic Platform, the Polish Peasants’ Party (governing coalition), and the Left representatives support the fastest introduction of the Euro as possible, while the Law and Justice party upheld the idea of a nation-wide referendum.[17] Earlier, the Civic Platform considered the possibility of holding a referendum together with the European Parliament elections on condition that the 50 percent turnout threshold for validity is eliminated,[18] also in the light of the Law and Justice party’s proposal to support the constitutional changes on condition that a referendum is held.[19] Such a stance by Law and Justice was assessed by the Civic Platform, the Polish Peasants’ Party,[20] and the left parliamentary club[21] as using the Euro for the party’s own political games and interests.

The very issue of what questions to ask in the referendum was also the subject of discussion among major political forces, mainly between the Prime Minister and the head of the Law and Justice party. After successive rounds of talks, the Prime Minister declared that the referendum, on the introduction of the Euro, will not be held and the constitution will be changed when such a possibility occurs in the parliament (new elections to be held in 2011), while the government will anyway proceed with implementation of the road map.[22]

President Lech Kaczynski, while commenting on the government’s proposal already on 30 September 2008, declared that in his view, the year 2011 is completely unfeasible and 2012 is also premature as the date of entry into the Eurozone. The President stressed as well that the decision must necessarily be subject to nation-wide referendum.

Public opinion views

As regards to the public opinion position, vis-à-vis the introduction of the common currency, the poll conducted by “TNS OBOP” for “Dziennik” daily suggests that 52 percent answered “Yes” to the question “should Poland in your view introduce the Euro?” with 37 percent of “No” answers. Additionally 55 percent of the respondents would like to see the Euro in their pockets in 2011 (with 32 percent votes against).[23]

In the poll conducted in November 2008 by “Public Opinion Research Center” (CBOS), the question was asked “would you agree to replace Polish Zloty with the common European currency the Euro?” 19 percent of the respondents answered “definitely Yes”, another further 28 percent answered “rather Yes”, while the number of “rather not” and “definitely No” answers, was respectively 21 percent and 24 percent, with 8 percent undecided. Among the supporters of the Euro’s introduction, 63 percent want the Euro in 2012, while 29 percent of Euro supporters would like to see it introduced at a later stage. As regards to the potential referendum, three-fourths of Poles would like to take part while over half (56 percent) declares that in the case that the referendum is held, they will definitely go to the polls.[24]

Poland and the CO2 issue

In the second half of 2008, climate change and greenhouse gas emissions issues were present in the public discussion. On 1-12 December 2008, the 14th Conference of the Parties to Climate Convention – COP14 – serving as the 4th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP14/MOP4), was held in Poznan, Poland. The Convention’s output achieved so far, as well as that under the Kyoto Protocol, was summarized there.

Poland arranged this important international meeting in a manner leading to the achievement of specific results aimed at stopping climate change and at an adaptation to inevitable changes. The Poznan meeting seems to be a milestone on the way towards a consensus on the commitments concerning greenhouse gas emissions reduction that is to be reached during the Copenhagen COP in 2009.

During the Poznan conference, particular emphasis was put on the identification of specific examples of successful technology transfer and of the actions aimed at adaptation to climate change, so that these good practices could be disseminated. The conference attracted about 10,000-12,000 participants from 190 countries. In connection with the convention panels, the conference formed an important step leading towards specific actions aimed at the protection of Earth’s climate. In his recent address delivered at the UN General Assembly, Professor Maciej Nowicki, Polish Environmental Minister, declared to organise a world exhibition in Poznan that will present innovative inventions and management solutions serving for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, beginning from the simplest solutions through most advanced technologies. “We now have a much clearer sense of where we need to go in designing an outcome which will spell out the commitments of developed countries, the financial support required and the institutions that will deliver that support as part of the Copenhagen outcome,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań ended with a clear commitment from governments to shift into full negotiating mode next year in order to shape an ambitious and effective international response to climate change, to be agreed upon in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. Parties agreed that the first draft of a concrete negotiating text would be available at a UNFCCC gathering in Bonn in June of 2009.[25]

At the same time but in Gdansk, before the December EU Summit, the talks between French President Nicloas Sarkozy and high representatives of east European countries concerning climate and carbon dioxide took place. “Things are moving in a good way. I am convinced we will arrive at a positive conclusion” said French President Nicolas Sarkozy after meeting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and eight other East European leaders.

Poland, which relies on high-polluting coal for more than 90 percent of its electricity, has threatened to veto an EU plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 unless Warsaw wins a fossil fuel concession. Poland argues it needs until 2020 to curb carbon emissions, for example by using more efficient boilers and carbon-scrubbing equipment, and possibly building a first new nuclear power plant. Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that Nicolas Sarkozy and the European Commission agreed to extend the period limiting mandatory purchases of greenhouse gas emissions permits for Eastern Europe coal plants. Tusk also pointed at the willingness to reach compromise at the summit “at the very end, maybe at the very last minute, we may decide this is a solution we can accept” Donald Tusk said.[26]

Poorer Eastern European states say that limits on carbon emissions will harm their economies at a time of a global financial crisis, preventing them from catching up with wealthy Western Europe.

President Sarkozy saw reasons for optimism after meeting the leaders of Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. “It is very strong political signal that despite the financial crisis, no state wanted to change the deadline or the objectives of axing greenhouse gases by one fifth, as President Sarkozy said.[27]

Following the meeting in Poland, the EU Summit in Brussels brought a final compromise in the Energy and Climate Change Package. Poland, and other new member countries, received a long transition period in adjusting coal power plants. As underlined by Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, “Poland received a great, great chance to modernize the energy sector. Chance, which will allow Poland in 2020 to have modernized energy sector enough to be able to fulfill the most difficult challenges of the climatic package”.[28]

Looking at the issue of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions from the point of view of the Polish society, “TNS OBOP” conducted a poll among Polish citizens in October 2008.[29] According to the research, a significant majority of respondents (92 percent) agrees that climatic changes are a threat that needs to be fought against; 79 percent of the researched population believes that climate change can have a direct influence on their life. For the researched population, resistance to climatic changes can bring advantages such as: clean environment (79 percent), higher life standards (51 percent), improvement of energy security (50 percent of indications). The most common threat among Polish respondents was the increase in energy prices (66 percent). However, the majority (69 percent) is keen on paying a bit more for clean energy – energy from renewable resources or “clean technologies” – six out of ten agree to pay up to 10 percent more and every fifth respondent is ready to pay up to 20 percent more for clean energy. Almost the whole researched population (92 percent) believes that small actions taken in everyday life can have a positive influence on the decreasing of greenhouse gases emission and 99 percent declares having already taken at least one of these actions, which can influence positively climate change. 75 percent declares to take actions like reduction of central heating while being not at home, rubbish segregation, using bio-bags, using eco-safe home equipment and reduction of water consumption.

Public discourse on the EU regional policy and absorption of the European funds

In the second half of 2008, there was rather doscrete and technical public discourse on a big scale on issues related to the EU regional policy as well as absorption of the European funds in Poland. However, one can point out to some issues, that were, to some extent, subject to the more vocal public debate such as: 1) absorption of EU funds concerning the programming periods 2004-2006 and 2007-2013; 2) challenges for EU regional policy related to the world financial crisis; 3) consultations of the so-called key projects and other documents related to the implementation of the EU cohesion policy in Poland in the years 2007-2013; 4) state of public debate on the EU cohesion policy post-2013, that is to say in the programming period 2014-2020 as well as 5) state of the debate on the new concept of the Polish regional policy.

As far as the public debate on the current state of absorption of EU funds in 2004-2006 and 2007-2013 is concerned, in general, the discourse on this issue was reflected in the mass media by the presentation of statistical data on the current state and the hitherto results of the implementation of the structural programmes, information on successful EU-funded projects as well as information on the structural programmes which would be available in the years 2007-2013, including information on current competitions within different programmes.[30] Certainly, this information positively influenced the increase of awareness among the Polish society about the financial contribution of the EU to the social and economic development of Polish regions.

As far as the public debate on the current state of absorption of EU funds in 2004-2006 is concerned, in the opinion of the present Minister of Regional Development, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, we are the leaders among European countries in terms of the absorption of these funds and all these funds will be spent.

It is worth mentioning that in the second half of the year 2008, a huge variety of seminars and conferences devoted to the closure of programmes related to the 2004-2006 financial perspective took place. They were an excellent occasion for debates as well as exchange of information and experience between different actors engaged in the implementation of the EU regional policy in Poland. For example, in October 2008 a conference devoted to the Integrated Regional Operational Programme (IROP) – the biggest EU-funded operational programme carried out in Poland in the years 2004-2006 – was organized in Warsaw.

According to the Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, Poland effectively used EU funds available within the IROP. In his opinion, EU funds have a significant impact on life of the so called “ordinary” people as they trigger energy and involvement of the people. According to the Prime Minister, effective absorption of EU funds 2007-2013 will be a greater challenge for Poland than the EU funds 2004-2006. In the view of the minister of regional development, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, IROP as the EU programme with the highest dynamic of absorption, is the example of successful spending of EU funds.[31]

In the second half of the year 2008, there are a number of events that were organized with the aim to increase the awareness of the Polish society about changes which took place thanks to projects co-financed within IROP. The examples of these undertakings are the ones organized by the Ministry of Regional Development: the competition concerning commune which was the most active in applying for EU funds within IROP as well as photographic competition concerning the best photographs depicting the results of IROP projects, entitled “ZPORRe zmiany w regionach”[32].

As far as the debate on the absorption of EU funds in the period 2007-2013 is concerned, in general, the government (which consists of the Civic Platform and the Polish Popular (Peasant’s) Party) ensured that EU funds in 2007-2013 would be spent without problems, while the opposition parties were skeptical about this declaration.

According to the minister of regional development, delays in the start-up of the EU structural programmes in 2007-2013 were caused – to a large extent – by the fact that negotiations with the European Commission finished only in 2007. As a result, 2008 was the first year of the actual implementation of these programmes. Moreover, in the view of Bieńkowska, delays in absorption of EU funds in 2007-2013 were caused by the fact that the previous government (in which the Law and Justice was the main party and Jarosław Kaczyński was the Prime Minister) did not prepare necessary legal adjustments in the field of environment protection to the EU law (in particular in the field of assessing the impact of investments on environment). Aforementioned, incompatibilities caused confusion among self-governments. Some of them decided to suspend competition procedures within the so-called Regional Operational Programmes (carried out at regional level in all Polish voivodeships) until the Polish act on environment protection would be compatible with the EU law. They were afraid that the European Commission would not clear these funds as they were spent in conflict with acquis communautaire, and that they would have to give them back to Brussels. For these reasons, the present government had to make huge progress in the field of adjustments of Polish laws to the European ones.

According to the Minister of Regional Development, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Poland is not lagging behind in the field of absorption of EU funds available in the programming period 2007-2013 in comparison with other member states of the European Union.

However, according to the deputies of the Law and Justice party as well as the Democratic Left Alliance, the government did not make satisfactory efforts in order to increase the level of absorption of the EU funds in 2007-2013. Moreover, deputies of these parties blamed the government for delays in announcing the competition for EU funds within the programmes implemented at the national level, such as for example, the Operational Programme “Innovative Economy”.

According to Grażyna Gęsicka, at present a deputy of the Law and Justice party and earlier in the government of Jarosław Kaczyński, responsible for regional development, prepared the project of law on environment protection but – for unknown reasons – the present government did not use it properly.[33] In the opinion of Grażyna Gęsicka, delays in EU funds in 2007-2013 absorption were caused by political, legal and administrative factors. As far as the political factors are concerned, Gęsicka criticized the current government for the verification of the lists of the so-called key projects that were originally prepared under her direction.[34] According to her, the announcement of the intention to verify the lists of these projects by the government led to the suspension of the preparation of these projects by the beneficiaries. As far as legal factors are concerned, Gęsicka criticised the government for making inappropriate legal regulations which delayed carrying out and accounting EU-funded projects. Finally, as far as administrative barriers of delays in EU funds 2007-2013 absorption are concerned, Gęsicka blamed the government for delays in signing contracts with beneficiaries of the key projects.[35]

However, according to the present Minister of Regional Development, Bieńkowska, the predominant majority of the key projects accepted by the previous government within the operational programme “Infrastructure and Environment”, were not properly prepared to carry out. They were of low quality. E.g. In case of 90 percent of them a necessary documentation was not elaborated.

As far as the debate on the absorption of EU funds in the period 2007-2013 is concerned, one should mention that in August 2008, the Ministry of Regional Development launched an action entitled “Simple funds”, which had as its aim to monitor and systematically reduce excessive and redundant bureaucratic formalities related to EU-funded structural programmes that are implemented at central level in the years 2007-2013 (Operational Programmes: “Human Capital”, “Infrastructure and Environment”, “Innovative Economy”).

A special e-mail service started to function in order to enable potential beneficiaries to send information about obstacles and problems which they faced when applying for EU funds or while carrying out projects. E-mails would be analysed by a special team composed of the representatives of institutions involved in the implementation of the EU regional policy in Poland in the programming period 2007-2013 as well as beneficiaries. This team acts permanently and consists of three working groups which deal with three problem areas: self-governments and infrastructure, entrepreneurship as well as the European Social Fund.

The action “Simple funds” was positively appreciated by experts of the non-governmental organization – “Polish Confederation of Private Employers “Lewiatan”. In the opinion of specialists of “Lewiatan”, despite simplification of procedures that were carried out on the initiative of the Ministry of Regional Development, there still exist redundant formalities in the EU-funded programmes in 2007-2013, especially within the Regional Operational Programmes (ROPs). In particular, “Lewiatan” indicated that the criteria for choosing projects should be clear, understandable and unambiguous. Therefore, this organization prepared a proposition of the set of formal criteria – a point of reference for ROPs in all voivodeships.[36]

As far as formal burdens in applying for EU funds are concerned, in the second half of the year 2008, the “Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan” conducted the survey concerning the opinion of Polish entrepreneurs on the system of EU funds’ absorption in Poland (representative sample size amounted to 1100 firms). According to almost 55 percent of respondents, the objectives of EU subventions were not correlated with the real needs of enterprises (for example too much EU funds were allocated to “soft” projects such as trainings instead of “hard” investments). Moreover, as many as over 51 percent of entrepreneurs stated that formal requirements were too complicated. Finally, almost 47 percent of the participants of the survey indicated that the criteria of choosing projects were completely unclear for them.[37]

One should mention that in October 2008, the Ministry of Regional Development launched a campaign aimed at promoting and informing about EU funds concerning the programming period 2007-2013.[38] Radio and TV spots, as well as billboards that appeared in 51 Polish cities, will be used in order to inform 14 million people about possibilities that give EU funds. A special internet portal devoted to EU funds started to function. It is assumed that within the aforementioned campaign, 16 regional and 90 sub regional information points related to EU funds will be created.

In addition to this, as far as EU funds’ absorption issues are concerned, in the second half of the year 2008, a huge scope of conferences and seminars devoted to different aspects of regional development policy took place in Warsaw. Examples are the following: the conference “European cohesion policy as a factor of growth and reduction of development disparities” – July 2008; the debate “Is Poland able to create an innovative economy?” – August 2008; the conference devoted to the implementation of the principle of good governance in Poland – September 2008; the conference “Poland and regions – perspectives of development in the XXI century” – October 2008; and the Fourth Evaluation Conference “Evaluation – crucial instrument for improving public administration performance” – October 2008. These events gave an excellent occasion for debates as well as exchange of information and best practices between different institutions, firms and individual persons involved in the process of implementation of the EU structural policy in Poland.[39]

As far as challenges for EU regional policy related to the world financial crisis are concerned, the government side declared to do its best to make EU funds the principal impulse of the development of the Polish economy. In particular, the Council of the European Union planned to support – to a larger extent – with the help of EU funds, development of public infrastructure and private investments. The government declared to reduce the number of documents required when applying for EU funds. Moreover, the Council of the European Union planned to increase an availability of EU funds for enterprises and self-governments and, as a result, to increase the number of contracts signed with the beneficiaries of EU funds by increasing the amount of installments of EU funds available for them. As a consequence, they would not have to take bank credits in order to finance investments supported within EU funds. According to Minister Bieńkowska, there is no threat that banks will not give credits to enterprises which will profit from EU funds as the firms that applied for EU-funds in the past are attractive clients for them.[40] Plans of the government concerning EU funds’ spending in the face of the world financial crisis were positively appreciated by independent experts in the field of EU funds such as for example, Jerzy Kwieciński, a former Vice-Minister of Regional Development as well as experts of the consulting company “Ernst & Young”, Poland.[41]

One should mention that some deputies of the Polish parliament were afraid of the negative impact of the world financial crisis on the dynamics of EU funds’ absorption. However, in the opinion of Minister Bieńkowska, the main problem could be related to the availability of credits to Polish enterprises.

It seems that social consultations of the documents regulating different aspects of the implementation of the structural funds in the programming period 2007-2013, which took place in the second half of the year 2008, can to some extent, be treated as a public debate on the absorption of EU funds because these consultations usually took the form of conferences. A wide range of partners including representatives of government, self-governments, entrepreneurs, socio-economic partners, non-governmental organizations, high schools, research centres, trade unions, deputies, media, independent experts etc., could present their critical remarks on the consulted documents as well as recommendations via e-mail, post as well as by posing questions during the meetings. In particular, one can distinguish consultations of the following documents: forecast of assessment of the project of the strategy of social and economic development of the Eastern Poland till the year 2020, up-date of the list of key projects (including the so-called “big projects”) which will be carried out within the operational programmes (for example within the operational programmes “Infrastructure and Environment” and “Innovative Economy”), projects of the detailed descriptions of the priorities of the operational rogramme “Development of Eastern Poland” as well as Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion – a document prepared by the European Commission.

As far as the state of public debate on the EU cohesion policy post-2013 is concerned, the debate was reflected, among others, by a variety of initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Regional Development. In particular, the Ministry was the author of the initiative addressed to the scientific environment, entitled “Challenges for the cohesion policy”. It announced a competition for expert’s reports devoted to different aspects of EU cohesion policy post-2013 such as: territorial cohesion in the sectoral policies of the EU; thematic concentration of the EU cohesion policy post-2013 – propositions of reforms and recommendations for the position of Poland in this field; ways of measuring effectiveness of the European cohesion policy.

In addition to this, in December 2008, the Ministry of Regional Development organized a meeting entitled “Regional policy from the European and national points of view” which had as its aim to present reports concerning EU regional policy, prepared in 2008 by the British research center – EoRPA (“European Regional Policy Research Consortium”). These reports concerned, among others, the debate on the understanding and practical use of the term of territorial cohesion. This meeting turned out to be an excellent occasion for debate devoted to different aspects of regional development and conducting regional policy.[42]

As far as the debate on the new concept of the Polish regional policy is concerned, it is worth mentioning that the Ministry of Regional Development put a strong emphasis on the strategic attitude towards developing and implementing policy of regional development in Poland. Between May and July 2008, the Ministry conducted a survey addressed to institutions of public administration at the central and regional level (ministries and Marshall offices). The survey was an element of the efforts of the Ministry aiming at elaboration of the comprehensive concept of regional policy conducted by the Polish state. The aim of this survey was to get to know the opinions of public administration about the necessary changes in the Polish regional policy. As a result of the survey, the following thematic areas turned out to be important: the role of self-governments in the sectoral policies, factors determining the competitiveness of voivodeships, cohesion and complementarity of financial support for rural areas. Respondents indicated several weaknesses of the Polish regional policy such as, for instance, lack of a cohesive strategic document concerning regional development which would be less general than the existing National Development Strategy 2007-2015. According to respondents, there is a need to increase competences and the responsibility of self-governments in the field of conducting development policy at regional level. Moreover, the most frequent problem area indicated by respondents was the relation between urban and rural areas in Poland (the most urgent issues are the following: quick communication between these areas, development of access to Internet, improvement of the quality of education).

On the basis of the aforementioned survey conducted among the representatives of public administration of central and regional levels as well as findings of working groups composed of representatives of ministries, self-governments, experts and scientists, in December 2008, the Council of Ministers approved the document “Concept of the new regional policy. Thesis and foundations for the National Strategy of Regional Development”. Three main objectives of the Polish regional policy were proposed by the Ministry: increase in competitiveness of voivodeships, utilisation of their inner potential as well as ensuring equal development chances between Polish regions.[43]

Pre-term parliamentary elections and the EU Presidency in 2011

An important subject of recent political debate in Poland is the question of the date for the next parliamentary (Sejm and Senate) elections in 2011, which are scheduled to take place in autumn of 2011 and thus will coincide with Poland’s term of the EU-presidency.

Basically, all major political forces (governing and opposition parties as well as the president) share the opinion that the electoral campaign cannot be reconciled with a successful and efficient EU-presidency.

Two solutions are being discussed currently: one, the self-dismissal of the parliament and new elections to be held in the spring of 2011 and the second: exchanging the presidency period with one of the EU partners (namely Denmark) as proposed by the Left Democratic Alliance.[44]

According to the head parliamentary club of the governing Civic Platform, Poland should consider both possibilities, yet he also presented himself as a supporter of pre-term elections.[45] The concept of pre-term elections has been supported also by the spokesman of the Law and Justice party, Adam Bielan[46] and one of the party members Pawel Poncyliusz, who stressed that earlier elections are less complicated than changing the order of the presidency.[47] The head of the Left Club in the Sejm[48] suggested that Poland needs already now to discuss the problem with EU partners so that to work out an alternative variant (changed presidency order) as otherwise it would be difficult to expect change of the date for Poland’s next parliamentary elections.[49]

President Lech Kaczynski,[50] stressed clearly that a new parliamentary elections campaign cannot be ran parallel to the EU-presidency and he described the pre-term elections as “an interesting proposal”. The President stressed also that announcement of new elections by the President can take place only if constitutional reasons occur,[51] while self-dismissal of the Sejm would require compromise among the two largest parties.[52]

 

 

 

[1] Jędrzej Bielecki, “Unia uzależniła się od Rosji, Raport: Wspólnota prawie połowę gazu kupuje od Kremla” [Union dependent on Russia. Report: Community buys almost ½ of oil from Kremlin] “Dziennik” daily, 12 November 2008.
[2] Dominika Pszczółkowska, Konrad Niklewicz, “Bruksela chce więcej solidarności w dostawach energii i wiekszego uniezależnienia się od Rosji, zaś polski rząd walczy o specjalne traktowanie naszej energetyki” [Brussels wants more solidarity in energy supplies and greater independence from Russia, Polish government strives for special treatment for our energy industry], “Gazeta Wyborcza” daily, 14 November 2008.
[3] Ibid.; Edwin Bendyk, “Polska weszła w konflikt z Komisją Europejską o to, jak chronić klimat. Nie jesteśmy już jednak sami, co potwierdził ostatni szczyt Grupy Wyszechradzkie [Poland entered into an argument with European Commission on the question of climate. But we are not alone anymore as was confirmed by last Visegrad Group Summit] “Polityka” weekly, 12 November 2008.
[4] Dominika Pszczółkowska, Konrad Niklewicz, op. cit.
[5] Internetowa Agencja Radiowa, 17 September 2008, available at: http://www.polskieradio.pl/iar/ (last access: 25 January 2009).
[6] European Service of PAP, Polish Press Agency, 17 December 2008, available at: www.euro.pap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[7] News Archive of the Ministery of Finance, 30 December 2008, available at: www.mf.gov.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[8] Internet service: www. money.pl on 16 September 2008.
[9] Prof. Witold Orlowski quoted by European Service of PAP, Polish Press Agency on 10 Sept. 2008.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan, Euro na EURO 2012? [EUR for EURO 2012], 18 September 2008, available at: www.pkpplewiatan.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[13] Business Centre Club, Position: Announcement on EUR beneficial for the economy, Warsaw, 11 September 2008, available at: www.bcc.org.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[14] Internatowa Agencja Radiowa, 19 September 2008, available at: http://www.polskieradio.pl/iar/ (last access: 25 January 2009).
[15] European Service of PAP, Polish Press Agency, 17 December 2009, available at: www.euro.pap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[16] Polish Press Agency PAP,17 December 2008, available at: www.pap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[17] Polish Press Agency PAP, 9 December 2008, available at: www.pap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[18] Internetowa Agencja Radiowa, http://www.polskieradio.pl/iar/ on 27 Oct. 2008 and Polish Press Agency PAP, www.pap.com.pl on 9 Dec. 2008.
[19] Polish Press Agency PAP, 17 December 2008, available at: www.pap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[20] Rzeczpospolita daily on 25 November 2008.
[21] Internet service www.money.pl on 26 October 2008.
[22] Polish Press Agency PAP on 30 December 2008.
[23] Internetowa Agencja Radiowa, 15 September 2008, available at: http://www.polskieradio.pl/iar/ (last access: 25 January 2009).
[24] Centrum Badania Opinii Spolecznej CBOS, Research Communiqué No. BS/180/2008, Warsaw, December 2008, available at: www.cbos.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[25] See: http://unfccc.int/2860.php (last access: 25 January 2009).
[26] Gazeta Wyborcza daily edition from 9 December 2008, available at: www.gazeta.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[27] Gazeta Wyborcza daily, edition from 9 December 2008, available at: www.gazeta.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[28] See: www.pap.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[29] Research done among Polish citizens above the age of 18, on a research sample of 500 respondents. Resarch done by TNS OBOP on demand of Representation of the European Commission in Poland. 17-19 October 2008, available at: www.ukie.gov.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[30] Absorption of EU funds in Poland has an increasing tendency. According to the most recent data of the Ministry of Regional Development, from the beginning of the functioning of the EU structural programmes in 2004 till the end of December 2008, approximately 30,1 bln zlotys have already been spent. As a result, the payments/commitments ratio amounts to over 92 percent. Over 6,6 bln Euro from the structural funds and from the Cohesion Fund (over 77 percent of the commitments of these funds for Poland in the programming period 2004-2006) have already been refunded by the European Commission. As far as the absorption of EU funds 2007-2013 is concerned, from the beginning of the functioning of these programmes till the end of December 2008, the level of qualified expenses indicated by beneficiaries in the applications for payments (in the part concerning EU funds) amounted to over 992,5 mln euro. 22 January 2009, available at: http://www.funduszestrukturalne.gov.pl/ (last access: 25 January 2009).
[31] According to the data of the Ministry of Regional Development (October 2008), the results of the IROP interventions in Poland were the following: over three thousand and a half of new roads, 596 thousands square meters of sport and didactic buildings, over 4,6 thousands pieces of medical equipment. “Tusk: zdany egzamin z wykorzystania środków UE” [Passed exam in EU funds spending]. Polish Press Agency, 30 October 2008. Source: http://euro.pap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009); “Konferencja: Zintegrowany Program Operacyjny Rozwoju Regionalnego 2004-2006 – tak wiele dla tak wielu”, 30 October 2008, available at: http://www.funduszestrukturalne.gov.pl/ (last access: 25 January 2009).
[32] Word play: “FUNDamental changes in regions”.
[33] “Polsko-polski spór o unijne fundusze” – interviews of Konrad Niklewicz with Grażyna Gęsicka – the former minister of regional development and Elżbieta Bieńkowska – the present minister of regional development, 22 September 2008, available at: http://gospodarka.gazeta.pl/gospodarka (last access: 25 January 2009)
[34] At the beginning of the year 2008 the minister of regional development Elżbieta Bieńkowska verified the indicative list of the so-called key projects which will be co-financed in the years 2007-2013 within the following Operational Programmes “Innovative Economy”, “Infrastructure and Environment” and “Development of Eastern Poland”. Key projects are the projects that have a strategic significance for the social and economic development of Poland. They are accepted individually by the Ministry of Regional Development and are not subject to the competition procedures. The original list of these projects was elaborated by the previous government, in which Grażyna Gęsicka was the minister of regional development. All in all 853 projects (of which 541 basic and 312 reserve ones) were set on the original list. The verification of this list was executed by the Ministry of Regional Development which took into account recommendations given by different ministries of the Polish government which will be engaged in the implementation of EU funds in the coming years. These ministries gave to the Ministry of Regional Development its recommendations and proposals of the verified lists of projects. The lists were also consulted with experts. As a consequence of the projects’ verification, the number of key projects was reduced by almost a half (from 853 to 433 projects). As a result, 22 percent of financial means originally allocated to the key projects (29 mld Zlotys) was shifted to the ones that would be chosen in the frames of the competition procedures. Verified lists of key projects have to be reviewed and verified every six months in the process of social consultations. Those projects which are not ready to carry out (that is to say in case of which preliminary or final contracts are not signed) are to be removed from the list.
[35] “PiS krytykuje rząd za opieszałość w wydawaniu unijnych pieniędzy”, Polish Press Agency, 20 October 2008; “Bieńkowska: o wykorzystaniu środków unijnych”, Polish Press Agency, 23 October 2008, available at: http://euro.pap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[36] “Akcja Proste Fundusze”, 14 August 2008, available at: www.pkpplewiatan.pl (last access: 25 January 2009); “Ocena formalna projektów w RPO”, 8 September 2008, available at: www.pkpplewiatan.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[37] Konrad Niklewicz, “Jak rozruszać unijne fundusze”, 28 November 2008, available at: http://gospodarka.gazeta.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[38] This information campaign is co-financed by EU funds within the Operational Programme “Technical Assistance 2007-2013”.
[39] Information available on the official website of the Ministry of Regional Development, available at: http://www.mrr.gov.pl (last access: 25 January 2009)
[40] “Banki nie ograniczą kredytów przedsiębiorcom”, interview of Anna Cieślak-Wróblewska and Paweł Jabłoński with the minister of regional development Elżbieta Bieńkowska, “Rzeczpospolita”, 8 November 2008. available at: http://www.rp.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[41] Anna Cieślak-Wróblewska, “Zaliczki na projekty unijne mogą pomóc polskim firmom”, “Rzeczpospolita”, 10 November 2008, available at: http://www.rp.pl/ (last access: 25 January 2009); Konrad Niklewicz, “Wielkie przyspieszenie za unijne miliardy”, “Gazeta Wyborcza”, 27 November 2008.
[42] “Konferencja: Polityka regionalna w aspekcie wspólnotowym i krajowym” – information of the Ministry of Regional Development, 10 December 2008, available at: http://www.mrr.gov.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[43] “Konferencja: Nowa koncepcja polityki – rekomendacje dla polityki regionalnej państwa” – information of the Ministry of Regional Development, 4 August 2008, available at: http://www.mrr.gov.pl (last access: 25 January 2009)
[44] Proposal by Left Democratic Alliance, Gazeta Wyborcza daily on 18 January 2009 after Polish Press Agency, available at: www.gazeta.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[45] Zbigniew Chlebowski for Radio ZET, after Gazeta Wybrocza daily on 18 January 2009, available at: www.gazeta.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[46] Adam Bielan for Radio RMF, after TVN24 TV station, 19 January 2009, available at: www.tvn24.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[47] Magazyn 24 godziny, 18 January 2009, available at: www.tvn24.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[48] Lower house of the Polish Parliament.
[49] Wojciech Olejniczak, Head of Sejm Parliamentary Club, “Gazeta Wyborcza” daily, Polish Press Agency on 18 January 2009, available at: www.gazeta.pl (last access: 25 January 2009)
[50] President Lech Kaczynski at a press conference in Ostrow Wielkopolski, “Gazeta Wybrocza” daliy after Polish Press Agency on 19 January 2009, available at: www.gazeta.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).
[51] Lack of budget bill and non-establishment of government in third attempt.
[52] Civic Platform and Law and Justice.