Chapter 11: Poland
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
There has been enormous progress since 1995 in both legal and non-formal practice regarding public participation in Poland. There is a new constitution that grants the right to information in general and to environmental information in particular, as well as right to initiative, to referendum and the right to file a constitutional lawsuit. There is also quite a bit of progress on the level of ordinary legislation, mostly due to the 1997 Amendment to the Environmental Protection Act (1980). This progress includes:
- establishment of public registers (including PRTR-type registers);
- extended obligation to notify NGOs and local communities at all authorization proceedings where EIA is required and safeguarding their right to participate with all procedural rights;
- obligation to maintain lists of NGOs willing to be notified in above cases;
- inclusion of a representative from NGOs on the supervisory board of the National Environmental Fund;
- establishment of an objective procedure for nominating representatives of NGOs to the supervisory boards of environmental funds.
Several informal improvements have also been achieved, including:
- establishment of a lobby facility;
- development of pro bono environmental legal services (in 1995, only PELA HQ provided such services; now three other NGOs do as well);
- the Project on Cooperation Between the Environmental Ministry and Ecological NGOs, commissioned by the ministry, which gave a comprehensive background for developing infrastructure concerning access to information and public participation (among the project's results: an updated list of NGOs that are consulted by officials on lawmaking and policymaking issues);
- positive change in the approach of officials toward public access to information and participation in decisionmaking. In 1995, public participation was not well understood and was therefore a rather strange idea. Now, the process seems to be commonly accepted and increasingly implemented.
There remain a number of problems that prevent true public participation. These problems include:
- lack of clear legal rules concerning access to information outside pending procedures and outside public registers;
- lack of clear legal rules concerning public participation in lawmaking and policymaking;
- the apparent retreat of foreign donors from sponsoring public participation related services combined with a lack of domestic sources to fill the gap - partially caused by the lack of a proper legal basis for providing public funding for public participation purposes.
Poland has rapidly put itself ahead of many other countries in the region in terms of creating a proper legal foundation to support widespread public participation. To continue this growth, Polish officials should undertake the following measures in the future:
- create the necessary legal basis to cure the above-listed problems;
- establish environmental information centers;
- establish a special public funding line focused on public participation.
REC * PUBLICATIONS * DOORS TO DEMOCRACY - CEE * POLAND