About the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland
The Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland is one of the youngest self-government corporations on the Polish self-government scene. It was established in 2002 and is a voluntary association of all Polish self-government provinces. The history of the Union dates back to the beginnings of the functioning of self-governments in Poland in the form of provinces. Along with the processes of legal and structural changes and the decentralization of the authority, a discussion was taking place on the creation of the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland, which would represent the interests of the Polish regions, both within the country and on the international scene. After the creation of the self-governments of the provinces, equipped with new competencies, but also a broad range of tasks, a need emerged to create a common forum whose aim would be, among others, to enable extensive discussions and consultations on the most important issues concerning the implementation of the regional development policy. The establishment of the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland provided such an opportunity for the Polish regions.
The initial meeting took place in Warsaw on 9 September 2002. During the meeting the presidents of the ‘sejmiks’ and the marshals of the provinces accepted the Charter of the Union and acceded to the Union, which was supported by the resolutions of the sejmiks on joining the association.
The charter stated, among others, that the supreme authority of the Union was the General Assembly, composed of 64 delegate-representatives of the 16 provinces - 4 persons from each province: the marshal of the province, the president of the sejmik and two councillors. This provided sufficient representation of the regions in making valid decisions.
On 21 September 2002 the First General Assembly of the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland took place, during which the first authorities of the Union were selected. The term of office of the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland overlaps the term of office of the authorities of the province self-governments.
The Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland has its representatives, among others, in the Joint Commission of the Government and of the Local Government, the Committee of the Regions of the EU, and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. The representatives of the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland participate in legislative work and negotiations, both in the forum of the Joint Commission of the Government and of the Local Government, and through the commissions of the Sejm and Senate of the Republic of Poland. Innumerable compromises between the government and local government authorities have been developed in the forum of the Joint Commission. The representatives of the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland take constant care that government bills contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of Poles in the diverse regions of our fatherland. Due to the fact that they are close to the citizens and know the everyday problems of their fellow countrymen, their opinions on the changes designed by the government have a huge meaning for implementing the regional development policy.
The Union also participated in the works of the Public Debate Forum – Local Government for Poland, whose assumption was to assess the functioning of the local government and to present proposals for changes eliminating barriers in the functioning of the self-governments. Amendments to some acts and regulations aimed at eliminating the legal doubts and improving the implementation of tasks by the self-governments of the provinces were drafted and submitted to the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, in accordance with the proposals submitted by the self-government environments.
The Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland is an important partner in the debates at the European level, which is proved, among others, by the High Level Conference entitled “Cohesion policy today and tomorrow” in Brussels, and the conference entitled “The Future of the Cohesion Policy – opportunities, threats, and possible scenarios”, co-organized by the Union and attended by representatives of the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions of the EU, the European Parliament, and the Government and the Local Government of the Republic of Poland. The debates usually took place at special moments, such as the fight with the economic and financial crisis in the EU, or work on the budget of the European Union in the financial perspective of 2014 – 2020.
As part of the common initiatives influencing the development of the regional societies and the social and economic development of the Polish regions, the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland organizes, in cooperation with the International Poznań Fair, the annual Tastes of the Regions Fair, which take place within the POLAGRA FOOD exhibition. The event gives producers of traditional and natural food an opportunity to present all the abundance and achievements of the culinary heritage of the Polish regions. The fair is a perfect forum for the identification and promotion of natural traditional food. This type of promotion, apart from the obvious benefits for consumers, also builds the brands of the regions. It is also worth mentioning that the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland has developed, together with the Polish Chamber of Regional and Local Products, the only system in Poland for distinguishing high quality food (taking into account the traditional food) and the “Quality Tradition” mark, recognized by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and by the European Commission.
The Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland also acts in the international sphere. Since 2009 it has participated in the Forum of the Regions of Poland and Russia, initiated in cooperation with the Senate of the Republic of Poland. So far four Forums have taken place; at the end of the First Forum in 2009 a common declaration of the provinces of the Republic of Poland and of the regions of the Russian Federation was adopted, on the basis of which the provinces and the regions decided to work for the development of cooperation between the Polish provinces and the Russian regions, as well as to organize cyclic meetings of the Forum of the Regions Poland - Russia, which take place alternately in Poland and in Russia.
In 2011 the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland started cooperation with the Donetsk Oblast Administration and the Association of the Local Governments of the Donetsk Oblast. The cooperation will be particularly effective in the area of European integration and the exchange of experience and good practice. In the opinion of the self-government bodies of Donetsk Oblast, the experience of Poland is the most similar to the current conditions in the Ukrainian self-governments in the area of contemporary legislation and practical activity.
In the same year cooperation with the regions of Croatia was also initiated, by signing a letter of intent on cooperation between the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland and the Union of the Croatian Counties. A year later, during the return visit of the representatives of the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland in Croatia, a Declaration on cooperation between the two organizations was signed, which, among others, envisages cooperation, and exchange of information and experience in the area of the functioning of local governments, cooperation within the Committee of the Regions, and supporting the implementation of common programmes in the area of social and economic development, with the use of financial aid from European funds.
So far the functioning of the Union of the Provinces of the Republic of Poland has shown that the organization has contributed significantly to the development of democracy at local and regional levels, strengthening the idea of local government and the unity of Small Homelands for the development of the Republic of Poland.