Country profile - Distinguishing factors (Poland)
Poland is located in central Europe – almost entirely in the Baltic Sea drainage basin – at the border of the Atlantic (temperate) and continental (cold) climatic zones. Because of its geography, the western part of the country shares some of the characteristics of Germany, while the eastern one resembles some of the patterns observed in Belarus and the European part of Russia (maps of monthly precipitation and temperature http://www.imgw.pl/klimat/). In addition, the country includes a variety of landscapes, from northern lowlands, to southern uplands, culminating in the rocky mountain ranges of Karpaty and Sudety (map of regional division of Poland http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/38/Regiony_Kondrackiego-hipsometria.png).
By European standards, Poland is a large country. Its area is 31.3 million hectares (fifth largest amongst the 27 EU Member States), and the population is 38.15 million (as of June 2009) which yields the density of population of more than 1.2 person per hectare. About 61.1 % of the population live in urban areas.
Population density in 2009 (according to GUS: Population size and structure by territorial division as of June 30, 2009 http://www.stat.gov.pl/cps/rde/xbcr/gus/PUBL_L_powierzchnia_ludnosc_teryt_2009.pdf
In economic terms, Poles enjoy less wealth than the average EU citizen. The GDP per capita (in Purchasing Power Parity) was USD 17 294 in 2008, i.e. less than the EU average of 31 500, and less than in other new Member States which joined the Union in 2004. The composition of the Polish GDP has become typical for many middle income countries, with 65 % produced in the service sector, 23 % in industry, 8 % in construction, and 4 % in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Almost 80 % of the GDP is produced in the private sector. http://www.stat.gov.pl/cps/rde/xbcr/gus/PUBL_oz_maly_rocznik_statystyczny_2010.pdf
In 1989, the Polish people triggered the transitions from centrally planned economies in Europe by forcing the communists to hold the first semi-free elections, where all the contested seats were lost by the establishment. In 1990, the Constitution was amended so that all subsequent elections were democratic. Meanwhile the governance structure was reformed and much of the authority – also in environmental management – was transferred to 16 administrative regions (voivodships), 379 counties (poviats) and 2478 municipalities. The President, whose term is five years, is the head of the state.
Environmental management responsibilities in Poland are divided between different governmental and self-governmental authorities at national and regional level (authorities). Currently, more and more operational responsibilities and tasks are being transferred from governmental administration to self-governmental authorities.
The general coordinator of environmental policy is the Minister of the Environment (MoE), responsible for the preparation and implementation of comprehensive solutions including developing legislation and strategies, indicating and defining the responsibilities of environmental protection authorities, transposing EU legislation into the Polish legal system and compliance reporting in general. MoE cooperates with other departments of governmental administration, in particular infrastructure, economy, agriculture and rural development as well as regional development in the field of implementation of environmental requirements. Most operational environmental instruments, such as plans, programmes and permits, are at present in the hands of self-governmental authorities.