Poland Report


Main Actors

Poland has established an institutional setup that is tasked with elaborating and implementing the national WGA related to foreign affairs. Institutionally, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister occupies a central place in the WGA. As relates to the international dimension of the WGA, particularly prominent roles are played by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior and Administration, and the Ministry of National Defence.
The way in which the Strategy for Responsible Development (Ministry of Investment and Development 2017: 5) was elaborated represents a good example of the WGA at the preparatory stage. This process involved officials from almost all ministries and agencies in addition to outside experts. They were divided into 12 inter-ministerial theme-based teams, such as ones dedicated to energy, transport and environment, security, economic expansion abroad and the efficiency of spending EU funds. Although the entire process was conducted under the auspices of the prime minister, individual ministries occasionally assumed a temporary role as the main coordinator of efforts to prepare concrete strategies.
The Government Centre for Security (GCS) is a software of the state, so to speak, on issues related to security, and it represents a key component of a comprehensive emergency-management system. It is headed by a director appointed by and subordinate to the prime minister. The mission and the main task of the GCS is to assess both threats (including external ones) and possible responses to them on the basis of data received from a range of sources, including international partners. The GCS also oversees cooperation with international partners or organisations related to emergency management. In the case of external conflicts and crises, this usually involves NATO and/or the EU.
The National Coordinator for International Development Cooperation serves as a proxy for the minister of foreign affairs in efforts to coordinate development aid and chairs the Development Cooperation Programme Board. The tasks of this opinion-making and consulting body include making proposals regarding geographical and thematic priorities of development cooperation, issuing opinions on drafts of the multiannual development-cooperation programme and annual plans, issuing opinions on annual reports related to the implementation of development-cooperation tasks by state administration authorities, and drafting government documents related to development cooperation (MFA 2018: 3). The board consists of 21 members representing various state institutions and civil society organisations (e.g. ministries, the parliament, NGOs, academia and the business community) (OECD n.d.: 2). However, at the end of 2017, the Department for Humanitarian Aid was created in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister. It is still unclear what the impact of this new entity will be on the effectiveness of Polish development cooperation, and the department’s competencies overlap the activities of the MFA in the field of humanitarian aid. Furthermore, one should also note that ODA projects related to a WGA to foreign affairs sometimes also involve local governments, especially big cities and voivodeship (province) assemblies.
For many years, Poland has been struggling with the so-called ‘silo’ character of its state administration. Ministries and agencies have often operated as closed units. Insufficient consultation and coordination as well as rivalry both between and within ministries has constituted an impediment to the decision-making process regarding a Polish WGA to foreign affairs. Moreover, the informal networks of politicians and their interference in theoretically technocratic processes has a bigger impact on the functioning of state institutions and on the relations between them in Poland than in other states in Northern and Western Europe.
However, under the PiS government, parallel networks and informal actors in state institutions have gained unprecedented influence. For example, even though Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president of the PiS, does not occupy any public post apart from being a member of parliament, any significant decision requires his approval. On the lower level, close and trusted allies of his have been inserted into state institutions, sometimes as éminences grises, where they play a similar role. Granted, in such a system, certain key decisions are taken more quickly if Kaczynski or his close associates are convinced of their importance and urgency. However, sometimes decision-makers do not take procedures or even laws into consideration. What’s more, decisions regarding foreign affairs are often endorsed without consulting independent, genuine experts, but rather on the basis of political calculations and prejudices. This assessment is confirmed by internal confidential or secret reports and private correspondence between officials that have been leaked to the public.
The rivalry between factions within the ruling elite, which also plays out between and within state institutions, represents another challenge to the functioning of Poland’s WGA. In order to maintain control of the party and state institutions, Kaczynski and his political nominees use the principle of divide and conquer, playing various factions within the elite against each other, which increases the unpredictability of the decision-making process and heightens tensions between state structures. However, since the 2015 elections, the polarisation of the political landscape, which was already intensive, has deepened radically. This trend constitutes a grave impediment to the development of the WGA in foreign affairs.
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