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  • Author or Editor: Ewa Popławska x
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If we realize that in the first constitutional laws of modern constitutionalism (such as the Constitution of the USA of 1787, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the Polish Constitution of 3 May 1791 and the French Constitution of 3 September 1791), the contents of the preambles corresponded to contemporary chapters defining the principles of the systems of state government, while the opening chapter of the Polish Constitution of April 2, 1997 includes 29 articles, a question arises whether it was necessary to precede that Constitution with a preamble. Introductions to constitutions are part of the Polish systemic tradition: they featured in the Constitution of 1791, as well as in the so-called March Constitution of 1921, the Constitution of the Polish People’s Republic of 1952 and the so-called Small Constitution of 1992, whereas the so-called April Constitution of 1935 did not have one.Like those of other states, the major contents of the Preamble to the Constitution include a solemn proclamation of those principles and assumptions that its makers found particularly important in light of the state’s history and contemporaneous situation. Setting these out explicitly was assumed to further the goal of integrating consecutive generations around a certain system of values as well as legitimising the system of government that was thereby established. This is why the Preamble indicates the entity who acts as the constitutional legislator (pouvoir constituant) as “the Polish Nation-all citizens of the Republic”, describes the Constitution itself as the “the basic law for the State”, characterizes the historical context in which the fundamental law was adopted and- most significantly-lists all the basic goals of the Polish State and the fundamental principles underlying the fundamental law.The reader may find it striking that the Preamble contents largely overlap, or at least are not coordinated with, the wording of provisions of the first chapter, entitled “The Republic”. This chapter is, as we have mentioned, very long and-as the title suggests-not only does it list the classic principles of the state government system, but it also gives quite an exhaustive description of the Polish national community in all its complexity (including the state’s main tasks and symbols, but also, among other things, references to the institutions of civil society, the definition of marriage enjoying the protection of the state, the duty to take care of war invalids, etc.).

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The Polish Constitution adopted on 2 April 1997, for the first time after the war, contains a provision dedicated exclusively to protecting national and ethnic minorities, however without a definition of those two categories. The legislator extended the rights of national and ethnic minorities beyond those identified in the Article 35. The extension of such rights also results from international agreements. Thus far there is no statute regulating in a comprehensive and complete manner the situation of national and ethnic minorities (the Constitution does not make its adoption mandatory), the legal regulations concerning these issues are dispersed. The problem of legal definition of the national minority appeared in connection with the initiative of the formal recognition of the Union of People of Silesian Minority. Its application has been rejected by Polish courts for the reason of non-existence of such a minority and for the attempt of abuse of the electoral privilege granted to national minorities. The Supreme Court's position has been confirmed by the Chamber and then by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. However the 2002 national census revealed a new phenomenon of the Silesian minority: 3% of the inhabitants of the region declared their affinity to Silesian nationality.

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