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Chapter: 

IV. Governance issues

E-government

E-government in Poland is still underdeveloped. Electronic voting or voting by mail has not yet been introduced. The Information of Subjects Performing Public Tasks Act 20051 was changed on 12 February 2010.2 According to its Article 4, the Act does not interfere with the LPPD.

Open government

The Parliament approved the Act on Access to Public Information in September 2001, and it went into effect in January 2002. The Act creates a presumption of access to information held by all public entities, private entities who exercise public tasks, trade unions, and political parties. These entities are also required to publish material online. There are exemptions for official or state secrets, confidential information, personal privacy, and business secrets. Appeals are made through the courts. In July 2003, the Polish Access to Public Information Bill came into force, requiring thousands of public institutions such as local government, political parties and schools to put public information on websites.3 The Public Data Bulletin, a system of Internet sites, serves to collect these informational sites in one place.4

Poland enacted the Classified Information Protection Act in January 1999 as a condition to entering North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).5 This act has been replaced by the new Classified Information Protection Act adopted on 5 August 2010.6 The act covers classified information or information collected by government agencies whose disclosure "might damage interests of the state, public interests, or lawfully protected interests of citizens or of an organisation." There have also been efforts to deal with the files of former employees of the communist era secret police. A law creating a National Remembrance Institute (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej or IPN) to allow victims of this secret police agency access to records was approved by the Parliament in October 1998. The files were opened to the public in February 2001.7 The Screening Act of 1997 created a special commission to examine the records of government officials who might have collaborated with the secret police. The Commission began work in November 1998. Presently the screening procedure is regulated by Disclosure of Information on the Documents of Security Agencies from 1944 to 1990 and the Content of the Documents.8 Under the LPPD, individuals have the right to access and correct records that contain personal information about them from both public and private entities.

Other developments

No specific information has been provided under this section.

Non-government organisations' advocacy work

The Polish Constitution sets out the necessary foundations for the existence of NGOs in Articles 12 and 58. The two basic types of non-governmental organisations in Poland are associations and foundations, regulated respectively by the Law on Associations9 and the Law on Foundations.10

The Polish history of relations between the government and civil society groups is quite brief. Development of civil society did not begin until 1989. As a result, even though Poland is now an EU Member State, there have not been any significant developments in this area. Civil society is still weak and its influence on policy making is relatively small.11

Legal grounds for the cooperation between public authorities and NGOs are established in the Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work.12 This act provides a framework for such cooperation and imposes an obligation on public administration to cooperate with NGOs in public tasks. This obligation concerns cooperation not only with "public benefit organisations" but also all with other NGOs involved in the area of public tasks.

Recent efforts to train and organise NGOs have resulted in better cooperation and communication. The NGO web portal, NGO.pl, consists of an NGO database, forum and links to funding and partnership opportunities.13

International obligations and International cooperation

Poland has signed and ratified the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and acceded to its First Optional Protocol that establishes an individual complaint mechanism.14

Poland is a member of the Council of Europe and has signed and ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In May 2002, Poland ratified the CoE Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS No. 108).15 In November 2001, it signed, but has not ratified, the CoE Cybercrime Convention (ETS No. 185).16

In 2006, the European Court of Human Rights found that the monitoring and censorship of an inmate's correspondence violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the Court's decision, the opening of a letter from a lawyer is permissible if prison authorities have reasonable cause to believe that it contains an illicit item and suitable guarantees are provided. However, no compelling reasons were found to exist for the opening of letters as a matter of course. The Court reiterated, "it is important to respect the confidentiality of its correspondence since it may concern allegations against prison authorities or prison officials. The opening of letters…undoubtedly gives rise to the possibility that they will be read and may conceivably, on occasion, also create the risk of reprisals by prison staff against the prisoner concerned."17

Poland is a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and has adopted the OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data. In November 2001, Poland ratified the United Nations Convention of 2000 against Transnational Organised Crime (the Palermo convention18).

On 1 May 2004, Poland joined the European Union and is obliged to respect EU privacy guidelines.

Footnotes