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The Polish Civil Service

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2000 35 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Region: Osteuropa


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“The civil service can be compared to… a piano, that stays the same no matter the person playing, nor the tune. After the work of Beethoven it doesn’t have to be dismantled or exchanged to play Bach or Chopin.”

Valéry Turcey1

Civil service, a part of public administration. The quotation above is one of the best to illustrate the nature of this institution. But, what actually is civil service? Writing about the Polish central administration in the 20th century, one cannot omit mentioning the beginning, the birth of administration in Europe, theoretical approaches, and finally the answer to the above question. I decided to close all that in the 2nd chapter: Theory for to solve any doubts and for a better understanding of the rest. The first chapter about Poland presents the establishing of public administration and civil service in the 20`s and the 30’s, after over a century of non-existence. It introduces Polish projects of reforming the administration, consequence of a military coup d’état and an authoritarian regime. The next chapter is about the destruction of all administrative achievements of the 2nd Polish Republic, politicisation and dissolvation of the civil service during the communist regime after the World War 1939-45 and positive changes in the 80’s that were the result of a critical situation of the Polish People’s Republic. Then the 90’s, the end of the non-democratic regime, new reality, the idea and the need to re-create the civil service, project, the creation and the role of the KSAP (National School of Public Administration) are being shown. The 6th chapter concerns the enacting of the first Civil Service Law and the next - wide, open critique of it, in addition the questions of civil service and the new constitution.. In the 8th chapter the focus is on the discussion that appeared in 1998, when already a new project of the law was being worked out, and generally regarded the existence of the civil service. Subsequently, the next part presents the 1998 Civil Service Law, most important differences and innovations and again the doubts connected to it. The last, but particularly important chapter of my work introduces ethical aspects not only of the civil service but of the public administration as a whole. The main reason is the very “young age” of the civil service corps in Poland and the similarity of the problems bothering them, civil service is after all a part of the public administration. Being discussed are the problems of corruption, misbehaviour, inefficiency and at the very end the need for a Code of Ethics for the civil service. The summary presents conclusions and conditions that must be fulfilled if Poland wants to have a real, fair and professional civil service.


In different countries, there are different criteria defining civil service, different ways of employing the servants, different duties and responsibilities of the officials. Partially it comes from two dissimilar ways of thinking about the state, that were formed in 18th and 19th century, when the models of modern democratic systems were being formed. First of these traditions, the “Hegelian” or continental one, says that citizens are treated like a “mass” of which the public administration should take special care and which it should manage wisely. The second, utilitarian-liberal or Anglo-Saxon, states that the citizens decided to limit their individual laws and to let a “supervisor body” to control them.2

It is quite difficult to find these qualities that could be essential in distinguishing civil servants from other officials working in the public administration. From the first sight English and French civil service are far from each other like sun and moon, they consist of different groups of the public servants, different number of the officials with different duties and responsibilities. However, many tried and managed to find this essence, these general, basic truths that are inseparable connected with the civil service, all over the democratic world:

- It is the state that by lawful regulations establishes the conditions under which the civil service works (including employment, wages and promotions);
- Civil servants are obliged to keep absolute loyalty to the constitution and governing powers;
- they also have to stay in complete impartiality and political neutrality;
- their duty is to work for the welfare of the state;
- in consequence they have strengthened responsibility;
- being a civil servant is a very durable profession, usually supported by a special way of employing - e.g. nomination; there are very limited possibilities to dismiss the civil servant;
- civil servants have limited certain political and citizens rights (right to strike, passive electoral right, being member of or to hold any function in political parties, etc) as long as they work for the state;
- but also, they have guarantied by the state certain privileges as a compensation for their devotion (stable wages, better pensions, health care).3

The best point is the quotation of Margaret Thatcher that formulated the advantages of that organised administration and civil service in words: “…it lets to change the government by minimum fuss and maximum effectiveness.”4


While the national models of the democratic state as well as public administration and civil service structures were being formed throughout hundreds of years, however the 19th century was the most important and most particular one concerning these developments. Poland did not exist on the maps of Europe then. It had lost its independence in 1795 and had been divided for 123 years into three parts that had belonged to the Austrian, Prussian and Russian empires. The end of 1st World War brought finally the long expected freedom, independence, but it also meant that the own model of public administration had to be created completely from the beginning. The lack of time as well as internal problems with reunification extorted lawmaking with a great influence of ideas from ex-occupants. As a consequence, Poland overtook the Austrian model of administrative procedures and judgement, the Prussian model of territorial governments and Russian examples of financial institutions5. However, the Polish system was not a conglomerate of different systems, but an original, and very effective one. Especially the public administration, so important in reunifying the society, economy and bureaucracy, did all its best to develop the “young” Poland. Most characteristically were, for these 20 years in between wars, the so called “temporariness of administrative institutions and laws”. Organisation of government and central administration, as well as internal division into voivodeships were thought to be temporary. Nevertheless, this feeling of being provisory did not affect public nor central administration and it managed to work surprisingly effective even in the most critical moments.

On February 17th, 1922 the Parliament made a law establishing the first Polish civil service, a corps of officials working in the central administration, for the executive. The main idea was to prevent from stagnation, to maintain the continuity of the executive, to create a specific “memory of the state”. The Prime Ministers would change, together with their cabinets – all ministers, but the civil servants, responsible for administrative, not political aspects, would stay. As usual, civil servants, once they were nominated6, could not be dismissed, unless they committed a crime or acted against the welfare of the state. They were obligated to keep neutrality and impartiality in every decision that was made, membership in any party or trade union was strictly forbidden, no matter to the position in hierarchy7, but the most important was the principle of absolute devotion to the state8.

Unfortunately these beautiful ideas did not oblige for a long time. In May 1926, after a coup d’état the politicians were connected to the marshal Pilsudzki and his military: the so-called sanacja9 took the power in their hands to keep it until 2nd World War. Soon, purges started, a few thousand officials working in the public administration were dismissed, public administration itself was uniformed. From 1928, according to a new law, public servants were obliged to support government policies and to work against the opposition, so that every elections, although formally democratic, would not be successful for this 2nd group of parties. Political neutrality, the basic feature of establishing the Civil Service Corps, was forgotten. Moreover, the money to fight with the opposition (bribes, costs of printings, agitation) were illegally taken from the executive funds, that were greatly increased at that time10.

Of course the authoritarian character of the sanacja was not as absolute as Nazism or Fascism, rather like non-democratic regimes all over Europe at that time. It managed to end up the reunification, mostly by limiting the autonomy of voivodeships and final liquidation of old laws that were replaced by new ones. At that time Poland was one of very few capitalist countries that had completely coded these laws that concerned public administration11. In spite of doubtful neutrality of civil servants, theoretical discussion about improving the functioning of central administration flourished during the times of sanacja. Formal temporariness of lawful regulations, as already mentioned before, did not influence the functioning of public administration and civil service in any negative way. On the contrary, it forced to look for new examples and solutions to create a stable, better model of public administration. It is worth mentioning, that in this period, in 20 years between the wars, the slogan of “reforming the administration” was very popular in all developed countries. Poland and USA were two of them with the greatest achievements, at least in the conceptual sphere12. The government in Warsaw established successively four commissions to prepare the reform of the administration: 1920, 1923, 1926 and 1928-33. Surprisingly, while the three first commissions were unable to change anything, the last one, lead by Maurycy Jaroszynski (a prominent expert in law and administration), working during sanacja can be perceived be seen as a very efficient one. 1st of all, it was working relatively long: five years, not only with connection to the government that established it, and it was even thought that the commission would become a permanent part of the executive organs. 2nd, it broadened the range of discussed issues, its proposals of changes were of entire character, ready to create an own and original public administration. Apart from the attempt to improve the functioning of the central administration and civil service by strengthening mechanisms of control and rising qualification requests of the officials, closed in the 1933 project of reforming the central administration, Jaroszynski Commission also tended to give more autonomy to voivodeships (decentralisation), the change the very bureaucratised authority organisation of the capitol, published a so-called Code of (all) Laws that would help officials to solve many doubts and vagueness13. It’s role was not only to advise, but to change the way of thinking about the public administration. Unfortunately, in 1933 the Jaroszynski Commission was forced to stop working, as the new budget did not find enough money for it14 and its achievements have never been realised. Nevertheless, even if it did not succeed in reforming the Polish public administration, its ideas greatly influenced other countries: Finland established a similar commission to reform it´s own administration, the Japanese structure of central administration also resembled the main ideas closed in the project of 193315. Even in the 90`s theoretical background and conclusions of the Jaroszynski Commission seemed to be not obsolete at all and were used in recreating a Polish central administration after the end of the communist regime.


In September 1939, the 2nd World War started. In few weeks joined forces of the 3rd Reich and the Soviet Union defeated the Polish Army and started the occupation of the country. Poland lost independence again. The authorities managed to escape to Romania, then through France to England (London) to establish a government in exile. Those, who stayed in Poland formed the so-called Polish Underground Country (PPP), one of the best functioning resistance movements in Europe. It had its own political (representation of London government, covering the main political parties), administrative and military (own army) pillars, that showed surprisingly well working co-ordination in controlling the country and effectiveness in fighting with the German occupants. Of course, the administrational organisation was very different from the one that previously worked, no civil service corps nor any other special parts of a central administration did exist, but without that what was created, PPP would not have had any chances to survive.

The end of the 2nd World War was also the end of the resistance movement in Poland. During the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences (both in 1945), the allied forces left the Soviet Union to take Middle and Eastern Europe under its control. That meant the establishment of a communist regime in Warsaw and no support for Polish government in exile any more. The PPP was dissolved, people either emigrated westward or were being found as political prisoners. The new authorities, completely dependent on Moscow, began to create a new system. Public administration was one of the first items to be changed. However, for few years just after the war, old laws and regulations were still valid, tradition and attachment to own achievements were too big to forget about them16, the changes were made gradually. Starting from 1949/ 50, Poland began the definite implementation of Russian standards, mainly concerning central and territorial (local) administration.17

In the new reality, civil service corps had no right to exist any more. First of all, politically it was absolutely impossible to accept a group of officials whose status was regulated by a separate law. Moreover, as they were on a privileged position, they did not belong to a folk, to “a mass, working in the city and country”18. Thirdly, the durability – impossibility to dismiss civil servants – did not fit the main ideas and Soviet examples, so already on February 14th, 1946 a special decree abolished this principle19. From now on, civil servants could be given resignation as easily as any other workers. It is necessary to mention, that after 1945 all those, who were civil servants during the sanacja period and who survived the war, came back to their work, although, because of political reasons they were completely “useless”. With the new decrete, that did not recognise the principle “lex retro non agit” and gave a green light to dismiss “old” servants, the communists did not have to worry about them any more. Having a civil corps absolutely subordinated to the central authorities and the lack of division between administration and executive the principle of political neutrality and impartiality had no right to exist any more. Gradually, as the time passed by and the new regulations were enacted, the civil service was more and more limited, to end finally its existence in 1974 with enacting a new Code of Labour, that abolished nomination on any post20.


1 Valéry Turcey, general secretary of the Trade Union of The Administrative Tribunal Judges in France, during the conference about the civil service organised by KSAP, Warsaw 14-15.03.1996

2 Guy B. Peters, Administracja Publiczna, p.10

3 B. Kudrycka, Neutralnosc polityczna urzedników, p.16

4 Renata Wróbel, Zawodowa, bezpartyjna, fachowa… in Rzeczpospolita 02.03.1995

5 H. Izdebski, M. Kulesza, Administracja Publiczna, p.59

6 Nomination was one of many privileges confirming their special status, civil servants formed one out of 12 groups of officials working in the public administration and were the only group that was fully nominated.

7 J. Lang, Polskie Prawo Administracyjne, pp.171-172

8 Article 21 of the 1992 Civil Service Law

9 sanacja - the cure, comes from the main slogan of Pilsudzki (the main hero of the First World War), who stated that Poland is in the deep crisis of democracy, hitherto governing parties are unable to create effective policy nor even a government that would last longer than few months and that was the reason why Poland needed a cure, authoritarian, but effective government.

10 J.Kosciolek, Panstwowa Sluzba Cywilna, p.15

11 A.Ajnenkiel, Administracja w Posce, p.91

10 H. Izdebski/ M. Kulesza, Administracja Publiczna, p.60

12 J. Korczak, Kadry Administracji Publicznej, p.44

13 Mainly, because of the world economic crisis that seriously touched Poland as well, but also because proposals were too liberal and democratic for authoritarian country which Poland at that time was.

14 H.Izdebski/ M Kulesza, Administracja Publiczna, p.64

15 For example, some parts of the old Administrative Code was valid until 1960.

16 H.Izdebski/ M.Kulesza, Administracja Publiczna, p.65

17 Quotation taken from the introduction to the Polish Constitution of 1952, enacted from the will of Stalin

18 J.Korczak, Kadry Administracji Publicznej…, p.47

19 H.Izdebski/ M.Kulesza, Administracja Publiczna, p.66


ISBN (eBook)
666 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Universität Leipzig – Faculty for Sociology, Philosophy, Political Science
1,0 (A)
Civil Service öffentlicher Dienst Polen Ethics




Titel: The Polish Civil Service