The Polish state is over 1000 years
old. In the XVIth century, under the Jagiellonian
dynasty, Poland was one of the richest and most powerful
states on the continent. On May 3, 1791 the Commonwealth
of Poland-Lithuania ratified a constitution, being
the first written constitution of Europe. Soon after
Poland ceased to exist for 123 years, upon being partitioned
by its neighbours Russia, Austria and Prussia. The
country regained independence in 1918 for only 20
years. In 1989 the first partially free elections
in Poland's post-war history concluded the Solidarity
movement's ten-year struggle for freedom and resulted
in the defeat of Poland's communist rulers. In 1998
Poland joined NATO and began negotiating its full
membership in the European Union.
The Constitution passed in 1997 vests
legislative power in the Sejm and the Senate The 460
Deputies of the Sejm are elected via party lists and
serve a four years term. Parties entering the Sejm
have to overcome a 5% (8% for coalitions) threshold.
The Sejm plays the dominant role in the legislative
process and has the right to supervise the Council
of Ministers. The second chamber, the Senate can amend
or reject laws passed by the Sejm.
The President is the supreme representative
of the Republic of Poland and the guarantor of the
continuity of State authority. He is elected for a
five-year term of office in direct elections. The
President can veto laws. A qualified majority in of
the Sejm can override the President's veto.
The Council of Ministers (the Government)
chaired by the Prime Minister is the principal body
of the Executive Branch. The Prime-Minister-designate
is nominated by the largest parliamentary group and
is given a mandate by the President to form a cabinet.
The National Assembly elects the proposed Council
The country has a variety of natural
resources including coal, copper, zinc, iron, gypsum,
lignite and some oil and natural gas reserves. The
rapidly developing private sector is now responsible
for 70% of the country's economic activities. The
dynamic development of the private sectors is based
on the continuous inflow of Foreign Direct Investment
and the high level of entrepreneurial activity of
the Polish population. Dominant industries include
metalwork, steel, and chemical and textile production.
Increasingly trade, high technology and the service
sector play an important role in for employment and
restructuring of the national economy.
About a fifth of all Poles are employed
in agriculture. This contributes to less than 5% of
the GDP. About 60% of the country's land is used for
agriculture. Almost one fourth of the population still
lives on small, inefficient farms. Poland's main agricultural
products include grains, potatoes, sugar beets, fodder
For centuries Polish culture has been
an integral part of European culture. Among the greatest
Polish contributors to European culture are: the astronomer
Copernicus, the great composer and pianist Fryderyk
Chopin and the outstanding scientist Maria Curie-Skłodowska.
During the last two decades the Nobel Prize for literature
has been awarded to two Polish poets Czesław
Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska. A long musical
tradition is continued by such world-renowned composers
as Krzysztof Penderecki and Henryk Górecki. Films
of Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieślowski and Roman
Polański contributed highly to the world and
European cinema. Polish art and theatre are well known
thanks to works of Jerzy Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor
and Magdalena Abakanowicz.
The capital Warsaw (1.6 million inhabitants)
is the country's economic and political centre. Cracow
- the country's third largest city, has been its cultural
centre since the Middle Ages and was in 2000 Cultural
City of Europe. Other Polish cities like Gdansk, Poznan,
Lódz are of European importance, like the candidature
of Wroclaw for EXPO 2010 underlines.
Poland has a high variety of landscapes:
the Baltic beaches, the Mazurian Lake District, virgin
forests, the Carpathians and the Sudeten Mountains.
Poland's 26 national parks and 8 World Heritage sites
are a host of historic and cultural sites of European
importance and offer numerous tourist attractions.