chapter  1
Poland: EU driven democracy?
Pages 26

Introduction Poland has become a fully independent state and started its transition to democracy in 1989 (Garlicki 2005). The process of constitutionalism in Poland started well before the transformation in 1989, with amendments to the Polish Constitution in 1982 allowing for the creation of the Constitutional Court (CC), with the start of activity by it (in 1986) and by the Ombudsman (in 1987). The landmark date, however, was the partially free elections on 4 June 1989, and subsequent amendments to the Constitution. Most notably, on 29 December 1989, the Polish Constitution was changed to state that the ‘Republic of Poland is a democratic state, ruled by law, and implementing principles of social justice’. In a series of judgments, the CC confirmed principles of non-retroactivity of law, citizens’ trust towards actions of the authorities, proper promulgation of normative acts, protection of legitimate expectations and protection of vested rights etc. (Brzeziński and Garlicki 1995: 33). Since 1989 the major objective and strategic goal of Polish foreign and internal policy was membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in the European Union (EU). Therefore, all reforms in Poland were subordinated to achieve this goal and to meet Copenhagen criteria, namely the creation of (1) a market economy, (2) democracy and (3) the rule of law and protection of human rights. On its road to the EU, Poland became a member of the Council of Europe (in 1991) and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In 1993, Poland ratified the Association Agreement with the European Communities and started membership preparations. The turning point was 2 April 1997 when Poland adopted the new Constitution. That Constitution was a result of long political discussions and negotiations (Chruściński and Osiatyński 2001). This modern document created a good framework for the Polish state’s further development and included a modern charter of rights and freedoms. Despite some flaws, after 12 years the Constitution is regarded by many as a good framework for ruling the country: it includes sufficiently precise guarantees of basic rights and freedoms and instruments to protect them. However, current conflicts between the president and the Council of Ministers indicate that maybe the Constitution should now be amended in order to delineate more precisely the key powers.