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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.

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Commission Opinion [COM(97) 2002 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Commission Report [COM(98) 701 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Commission Report [COM(1999) 509 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Commission Report [COM(2000) 709 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Commission Report [COM(2003) 675 final - SEC(2003) 1207 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Treaty of Accession to the European Union [Official Journal L 236 of 23.09.2003]


In its Opinion of July 1997, the European Commission considered that Poland still needed to make an effort to incorporate Community rules into its national legislation, particularly in the field of health and safety at work. It was felt that this should be feasible in the medium term, provided that Poland maintained its efforts.

However, the November 1998 Report noted that little tangible progress has been achieved in transposition and called for the intensification of efforts in the social field and for the strengthening of the competent institutions.

The October 1999 Report confirmed the conclusions of the previous report and called on Poland to make a special effort in the social field, especially with regard to health and safety at work, public health, employment and equal opportunities. Poland was also urged to significantly strengthen the institutional resources of the National Labour Office and labour inspection services. The social dialogue, particularly at the level of the employers' organisations, needed to be developed.

In the November 2000 Report the Commission noted that little progress had been made in terms of alignment with the acquis. Serious efforts were still needed in most social affairs areas.

The 2003 Report notes that Poland is essentially meeting the commitments and requirements arising from negotiations in the areas of equal treatment of women and men, social dialogue, employment policy, social inclusion and social protection and is expected to be in a position to implement this acquis from accession.

On the other side of the coin, Poland is only partially meeting the commitments and requirements for membership in the areas of labour law, health and safety at work, public health, European Social Fund and anti-discrimination.

The Treaty of Accession was signed on 16 April 2003 and accession took place on 1 May 2004.


In the social affairs field, apart from the various specific action programmes, such as those in the area of public health, and the European Social Fund, EU legislation covers health and safety at work, labour law and working conditions, equal opportunities for men and women, coordination of social security schemes for migrant workers, and tobacco products.

In all these areas, the EU's social legislation lays down minimum requirements, accompanied by safeguard clauses for the most advanced Member States.

In addition, the consultation of the social partners and the social dialogue at European level are enshrined in Articles 138 and 139 of the Treaty (ex-Articles 118a and 118b).


The 2003 Report again points out that Poland's Labour Code is only partially aligned with the acquis on labour law, and completion of transposition must be prioritised. Legislative alignment still needs to be completed in the fields of working time, part-time work, transfer of undertakings and posting of workers.

The 2003 Report concludes that the employment situation is continuing to deteriorate. The unemployment rate exceeded 15% in 1999, was 16.4% in 2000, and in 2002 had risen to 19.9%. Young people and unskilled workers are particularly affected by unemployment, and there are major regional disparities.

As regards employment policy, a mechanism was established in October 2000 to improve the functioning of the Employment Offices system, and a "national action plan for employment development", geared to the four pillars of the European Employment Strategy, has been implemented.

The 2003 Report stresses that efforts are still needed to effectively implement the priorities identified in the Joint Assessment of the Employment Priorities. It recommends Poland to take action to increase employment rates, especially for women and older workers, to continue to improve incentives for job creation and taking up work, and to pursue the reform of the education and training systems.

As regards the European Social Fund, including the EQUAL initiative, although considerable progress was made during 2003, further efforts are urgently needed to reinforce administrative capacity for management, implementation, monitoring, auditing and financial control, at both regional and national levels.

The social dialogue has been regulated in Poland since 1999. It is dominated by tripartite dialogue, and there still does not seem to be any autonomous social dialogue at sectoral level. The 2003 Report confirms that the institutional and administrative framework is in place. However, the tripartite consultation structures needs to operate in a more regular way, lead to more effective consultation of social partners on a wider range of issues, and produce more concrete outcomes. The autonomous social dialogue should also continue to be strengthened and promoted, in particular at sectoral, regional and enterprise levels.

The Community provisions on equal treatment for men and women have been incorporated into an amended pension schemes act which came into force in April 2000.

The 2003 Report notes that Poland has transposed most of the legislation on equal treatment for men and women.

Poland has adopted legislation transposing the directive based on Article 13 of the Treaty relating to the ban on discrimination on grounds of race or ethnic origin. In 2004 it still has to transpose the aspects of this directive not concerned with employment and establish the body responsible for equal treatment.

In the field of health and safety at work, the 2003 Report states that legislative shortcomings persist with regard to the Framework Directive as well as a number of individual directives, i.e. carcinogens, biological and chemical agents at work, asbestos and noise, medical treatment on board vessels and fishing vessels, where transposition is only partial. Poland has obtained a transitional period relating to the use of work equipment by workers until the end of 2005. The National Labour Inspectorate is in place, but further strengthening in terms of both staffing and technical facilities is needed.

In the field of public health, transposition of the most recent tobacco acquis remains to be completed. With regard to the control and surveillance of communicable diseases, the administrative and regulatory framework has been established, but implementation and enforcement efforts are still needed. The Polish authorities must continue their efforts to improve the population's state of health and devote adequate resources to health

In January 1999 Poland embarked upon a reform of the social insurance and health care systems. The latter reform sparked widespread unrest among the medical professions, leading to serious disruption of hospital and emergency care. The changes affect the organisation of health services and access to benefits, redefine the role of the state, especially in the field of health policy, and give citizens more responsibility for their own health.

In the field of social protection, the 2003 Report notes that Poland should continue its efforts to implement the health care and pension reforms, which will further help to improve the level and efficiency of social protection.

In the course of 2004 the Commission and Poland must finalise the Joint Memorandum on Social Inclusion, which identifies key challenges and possible policy orientations for promoting social inclusion. On this basis, an integrated strategy and a national action plan on social inclusion will have to be developed.

Last updated: 19.01.2004