Institutionalizing Intergovernmental Relations in Poland: The Joint Commission of the Government and Territorial Self-Government

Andżelika Mirska, University of Warsaw

Relevance of the Practice

The Joint Commission of Government and Territorial Self Government is an instrument for cooperation of two separate kinds of public authorities within the framework of the executive. The Joint Commission of Government and Territorial Self Government was established by the Polish Government in 1993, inter alia, as a result of the ratification of the European Charter of Local Self-Government by Poland. The Charter refers, inter alia, to the local government’s guarantees of the right to influence the government’s policy in the matters relating to the local government. Since 1993 to 2005 the legal status of the commission was regulated by three subsequent government’s regulations. Now, the Act of 6 May 2005 on the Joint Commission of Government and Territorial Self Government and on representatives of the Republic of Poland in the European Union Committee of the Regions is in force. The statutory form of the regulation obviously means the improvement and stabilization of the commission’s position in the institutional system of Poland.

The commission is an instrument for dialogue between the central government and the representatives of the bottom-up organized local government environment as well as an expression of cohabitation between the government expressing the state’s interests and local government – politically diversified, expressing the regional and local interests.

Description of the Practice

The commission includes 12 representatives of the central government and local government. The central government is represented by the minister in charge of general government and 11 members appointed by the Prime Minister. The local government is represented by two representatives of each of six all-Poland local government organizations determined in the government’s regulation of 2008. These are the Union of Polish Metropolises (established in 1990); the Union of Small Polish Towns (established in 2008); the Association of Rural Communes of the Republic of Poland (established in 1993); the Association of Polish Cities (established in 1991); the Association of Polish Powiats (established in 1999); the Association of Voivodeships the Republic of Poland (established in 2002). They have a legal form of an association or a foundation. These organizations aspire also to represent their interests at a transnational level. It should be underlined that the establishment of these organizations was a bottom-up process and independent of central authority (during works on the Act on the Local Government in 1990 it was intended to appoint the obligatory local government representation, i.e. ‘the National Association of Municipalities’. It did not happen as a result of an objection of the ‘Solidarity’ environment and members of local government). The local and regional self-government organizations are an expression of bottom-up initiatives and not an obligation imposed by an act.

Both the composition and the internal organization of the commission indicate that the separate interests of urban and rural communes are taken into consideration. The Team for Rural Areas, Villages and Agriculture and the Team for Functional Metropolitan and Urban Areas are among 12 problem teams established in the commission. The teams’ works are additionally supported by experts.

The commission’s task is to consider ‘problems related to the function of territorial self-government and the state’s policy towards the self-government as well as the matters related to the self-government being within the scope of the activities of the European Union and international organizations to which the Republic of Poland belongs (Article 2 of the Act of the Joint Commission of Government and Territorial Self Government).

Assessment of the Practice

The Joint Commission of Government and Territorial Self-Government is a permanent element of the institutional system of Poland. It has the right, guaranteed by law, to participate in consultations of acts concerning the local government matters. The commission also prepares scientific expert’s opinions and is an important forum for discussion on the local government’s rights. The meetings of working commissions are held regularly. The primary role is played by the representatives of given local government organizations which separately represent the interests of local governments of cities of the metropolis, cities, urban areas, powiats, voivodeships. Their activity and involvement determine which problems will be raised in the discussion with the government. The Union of Polish Metropolises is particularly active; it brings together 12 large cities the presidents of which aspire to conduct the independent policy in opposition to the current government. The Association of Rural Municipalities plays also a very important role. Some antagonism between the concepts of regional policy in Poland can be observed on this plane (the concept of polarizing diffusion development supports the network of metropolises versus the concept of sustainable development supporting the rural areas).

Following the timetable for the works of the commission and its problem teams it can be concluded that the commission is very active.[1] A detailed analysis of the meetings’ subjects and interviews with the commission’s members would allow for the assessment as far as the commission is able to fulfil its mission and a forum to agree positions between the government and local government as well as between the urban areas and rural areas.

References to Scientific and Non‐Scientific Publications

Website of the Association of Polish Cities, <>

Website of the Association of Voivodeships the Republic of Poland, <>

Website of the Joint Commission of Government and Territorial Self Government,           <>

Website of the Union of Polish Metropolises, <>

[1] ‘Porządek obrad‘ (Komisja Wspólna Rządu i Samorządu Terytorialnego)               <>.