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What is Konstytucja RP and why is it important?

Konstytucja RP is the Polish abbreviation for the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, which is the supreme law of the country. It was adopted on April 2, 1997, by the National Assembly and approved by a national referendum on May 25, 1997. It replaced the previous constitution of 1952, which was based on the Soviet model and did not reflect the democratic changes that occurred in Poland after 1989.

The Constitution of the Republic of Poland defines the basic principles of the Polish state, such as its sovereignty, democracy, rule of law, social justice, and respect for human rights. It also regulates the structure and functions of the main organs of the state, such as the President, the Parliament, the Government, the Judiciary, and the local governments. It also establishes the rights and duties of citizens, as well as the principles of national security, public finance, and state emergencies.

The Preamble

The preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland is a short introduction that expresses the values and aspirations of the Polish nation. It begins with the words “We, the Polish Nation”, which emphasize the sovereignty and unity of the people. It then acknowledges the historical and cultural heritage of Poland, as well as its contribution to the common good of humanity. It also expresses gratitude to the ancestors who fought for independence and democracy, and solidarity with fellow Poles living abroad.

The preamble also declares that the Constitution is based on respect for human dignity, freedom, and justice, as well as on universal values derived from different sources, such as faith in God or one’s own conscience. It also states that the Constitution aims to guarantee the rights of citizens and ensure the efficiency and accountability of public institutions. Finally, it calls upon all who apply the Constitution to do so in accordance with these principles.

The Chapters

The Constitution of the Republic of Poland consists of 13 chapters that cover various aspects of the state and society. Here is a brief overview of each chapter:

  • Chapter I: The Republic. This chapter defines Poland as a common good of all citizens, a democratic state governed by law, and a unitary state. It also states that Poland respects international law and cooperates with other countries for the benefit of humanity.
  • Chapter II: Freedoms, Rights and Duties of Persons and Citizens. This chapter lists and protects various civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression, assembly, association, religion, education, work, health care, culture, and environment. It also specifies some duties and responsibilities of citizens, such as paying taxes, defending the country, obeying the law, and respecting others.
  • Chapter III: Sources of Law. This chapter defines the hierarchy and types of legal norms in Poland, such as the Constitution, statutes (laws), ratified international agreements (treaties), regulations (executive orders), local laws (bylaws), and customary law. It also regulates how laws are made and amended by Parliament or by referendum.
  • Chapter IV: The Sejm and Senate. This chapter describes how Parliament (the legislative branch) is composed and elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term. It also explains how Parliament exercises its functions of making laws (legislation), controlling government actions (oversight), representing citizens’ interests (representation), appointing or dismissing public officials (nomination), and deciding on important matters (decision-making).
  • Chapter V: The President of the Republic. This chapter defines how the President (the head of state) is elected by direct vote for a five-year term with a limit of two terms. It also outlines how the President performs his or her duties of representing Poland in foreign affairs (diplomacy), appointing or dismissing government members or judges (appointment), signing or vetoing laws (approval), issuing decrees or orders (command), granting pardons or honors (mercy), declaring states of emergency or war (crisis management), and initiating referendums or constitutional amendments (initiative).
  • Chapter VI: The Council of Ministers and Government Administration. This chapter determines how the Council of Ministers (the cabinet) is formed by the President based on the proposal of the Prime Minister (the head of government) who is usually the leader of the majority party or coalition in Parliament. It also specifies how the Council of Ministers conducts its activities of implementing laws (execution), proposing laws or budgets (proposal), managing public affairs (administration), coordinating policies (coordination), reporting to Parliament or the President (accountability), and resigning or being dismissed (termination).
  • Chapter VII: Local Government. This chapter establishes how local governments are organized at different levels: municipalities (gminy), counties (powiaty), and regions (województwa). It also grants them autonomy in managing their own affairs, such as providing public services, collecting taxes, making local laws, and cooperating with other entities.
  • Chapter VIII: Courts and Tribunals. This chapter guarantees the independence and impartiality of the judiciary (the judicial branch) from other branches of power. It also regulates the structure and functioning of various courts and tribunals, such as the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Tribunal, the Supreme Administrative Court, the common courts, the military courts, and the State Tribunal. It also defines the principles and procedures of judicial review, judicial appointments, judicial discipline, and judicial ethics.
  • Chapter IX: Organs of State Control and for Safeguarding Rights. This chapter creates and empowers various organs that monitor and protect the legality, constitutionality, and human rights in Poland, such as the Tribunal of State, the Commissioner for Citizens’ Rights (the ombudsman), the National Council of the Judiciary, the Supreme Chamber of Control (the audit office), the General Prosecutor, and the Commissioner for Children’s Rights.
  • Chapter X: Public Finances. This chapter sets out the rules and principles of managing public finances in Poland, such as budgeting, spending, borrowing, auditing, and reporting. It also defines the roles and responsibilities of various actors involved in public finance, such as Parliament, the President, the Council of Ministers, the Minister of Finance, the National Bank of Poland, the Monetary Policy Council, and local governments.
  • Chapter XI: Extraordinary Measures. This chapter regulates how the state can deal with exceptional situations that threaten its security or public order, such as martial law, state of emergency, state of natural disaster, or state of epidemic. It also limits the scope and duration of these measures and protects the rights and freedoms of citizens during these times.
  • Chapter XII: Amendments to the Constitution. This chapter stipulates how the Constitution can be changed or revised by Parliament or by referendum. It also distinguishes between ordinary amendments (which require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament) and fundamental amendments (which require a simple majority in both houses of Parliament followed by a national referendum).
  • Chapter XIII: Transitional and Final Provisions. This chapter contains various provisions that deal with the implementation and interpretation of the Constitution, as well as some specific issues that arose from the transition from the previous constitution to the current one.

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The Conclusion

The Constitution of the Republic of Poland is a document that reflects the history, culture, values, and aspirations of the Polish nation. It is also a legal framework that regulates the organization and functioning of the Polish state and society. It is a source of rights and obligations for citizens and authorities alike. It is a guarantee of democracy, rule of law, social justice, and human dignity. It is a foundation for peace, cooperation, and development. It is a living document that can be adapted to changing circumstances and needs. It is a common good that deserves respect and protection from all who live under it.

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