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  • Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland

     

  • NEWS 2006-2010

  • European Speakers summit
    to look at how parliaments interact with civil society to promote human rights

     

    Strasbourg, 15.05.2008 - Speakers and presidents of parliament from the 47 Council of Europe member states will gather in Strasbourg from 22 to 23 May 2008 for a major summit conference on the twin themes of "parliaments and civil society" and "national parliaments and the Council of Europe: promoting the core values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law".

    Hosted by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament will look at good practices for enabling civil society to influence policy and debate through parliamentary processes and will seek to strengthen legislators' links with the Council and its values.

    The Presidents of international parliamentary bodies, as well as Speakers from observer states to the Assembly (Canada, Israel, Mexico), are also invited. Around 300 participants are expected.

    Following the opening of the conference by PACE President Lluís Maria de Puig, there will be presentations on the conference themes from the Speakers of the Hungarian National Assembly, the Swedish Parliament, the Albanian People's Assembly and the Netherlands Senate.

    The Secretaries-General of the participating parliaments and assemblies are also due to hold a separate meeting.

    The first European Speakers' Conference was held in 1975. It takes place every two years, hosted alternately in Strasbourg or in the capital of a Council of Europe member state.

     

    Conference website

    Provisional list of Participants

     

    Address by Mr Bogdan Borusewicz
    Speaker of the Senate of Poland

    Theme I a:

    "Interaction between parliaments and the civil society"

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    An average citizen of a democratic state when asked how he or she perceives the political reality of his or her country will most probably respond by referring to keywords and phrases such as: elections, parties, government, power, election campaign. This is the kind of image that the media create.

    Much less frequently do we hear about participation, the need for dialogue between the authorities and the public, about broad-based involvement in the legislative process, about the perception and evaluation of the laws made.

    Fortunately, owing to non-governmental organisations which promote attitudes such as active citizenship and co-responsibility for one's state, more and more frequently my compatriots increasingly refuse to accept that peculiar state of political hibernation which comes in-between successive elections. This is why they eagerly and constructively engage in creative and constructive cooperation with their representatives.

    Civic dialogue provides a foundation for modern democratic states. It also underpins the political system of the Republic of Poland. This rule is explicitly enshrined in the preamble to the Polish Constitution. It provides for civic dialogue and the principle of subsidiarity which strengthen the rights of citizens and their communities.

    From its very outset, the European Union has been running debates on the question of civic dialogue. Poland has been actively contributing to them. In this domain, we also have our own unique tradition and achievements to our credit.

    The 16th, the 17th and the 18th centuries in our country were the times of the Nobles' Democracy. Back then Poland was a monarchy but the nobility who according to optimistic estimates represented almost one-tenth of the society had the right to impact the king's decisions through deputies and senators acting on their behalf. They thoroughly exercised this right. A political system with such a structure was a unique phenomenon in European realities of that era.

    In the last decades of the previous century, Poland hosted the Round Table Talks. They were made possible through conscious civic actions of the communities persuaded about the need of rapid and radical changes to be made in the country. The will of the people expressed so categorically finally compelled the ruling communist elites to engage in dialogue with the opposition.

    The Poles continue to be interested in politics. This is a subject that we seem unable to discuss in an unemotional way. It is a matter of importance for us what is going on in the state, in the region, in the local communities. We are aware of the fact that this is what determines the quality of our everyday life.

    We, the parliamentarians, strive to develop precise legislation to lay down the rules for continuous cooperation between the authorities and the public. Further specification of such legal regulations allows to harness the immense energy available in the Polish people in the form of their political temperament.

    When making this point, a definition of man coined by Aristotle comes to my mind: dzoon politikon - a political being, open to the others, interested in common welfare. This is a plea for engaging in public activity, something that is needed in Europe, needed in Poland.

    Civic dialogue unfolds on various platforms. Next to the executive branch, there is also the legislative branch participating in it. The introduction of the institution of a public hearing may be an example of civic dialogue. Since the year 2005, when the law on public hearing entered into force, it has been a method of presenting to parliamentarians the opinions of groups interested in a given issue.

    The public hearings organised heretofore have centred on issues important to the state and its citizens: development policy, copyright and the income tax. Taking this opportunity, I hasten to add that Poland is one of the few European countries to have introduced legal provisions concerning the public hearing. In most countries on our continent, this is a customary form not provided for in a law.

    In the previous term in office, we set up for the very first time the Parliamentary Team for Cooperation with Non-Governmental Organisations. I had the honour of chairing this Team and in the present term I am heading its workings. Through our actions, social partners have gained yet another opportunity to have impact on the shape of the laws made.

    The Team also provides a platform for dialogue and cooperation between the two Houses of our Parliament which facilitates communication and brings tangible benefits in the legislative process. On the forum of the Parliamentary Team, bills are drafted which are palatable both to non-governmental organisations, and to the executive branch.

    It takes an open mind to pursue civic dialogue. This is a process, a social continuum, which calls for flexibility, as much as for a clearly defined legal framework. Let me once more quote Aristotle and his concept of the golden mean. Creative pursuit of compromise and a consensus among social partners and legislative and executive branches of government are a underpinning of a harmonious development of states, a foundation of civil society. This is what I would want for Poland. This is what I hope that our European friends may attain.

    Subject: press releae n° 353 - PA - Forthcoming Conference of Presidents of Parliament

     

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