The Polish Constitution

Dated 2 April 1997, is the most important source of universally binding law in Poland. The Constitution is an Act, i.e. a universally binding law. It is adopted and amended in a different way from ordinary Acts (Article 235 of the Constitution).

The Constitution is regarded as a basic law in view of its particular contents, form and legal force. It governs Poland’s political, social and economic system and lays down the fundamental rights and freedoms of Polish citizens. The Constitution occupies the highest position in the hierarchy of sources of law in Poland. It indicates the other sources of law, their scope and their autonomous or executive nature. All other normative acts must be compatible with the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court upholds compatibility with the Constitution of other normative acts and also compatibility of subordinate normative acts with higher-ranking legislation. In addition, under Article 79 of the Constitution, any person whose constitutional rights or freedoms have been violated is entitled to lodge a complaint with the Constitutional Court in respect of the compatibility with the Constitution of an Act or other normative act, further to which a court or public body has issued a definitive judgment on their constitutional rights, freedoms or obligations.

International agreements are ratified by the President of the Republic. However, where an international agreement concerns fundamental issues such as:

  • peace,
  • political or military arrangements,
  • citizens’ freedoms, rights and responsibilities,
  • membership of international organisations,
  • major financial commitments on the part of the State and matters governed by an Act or in respect of which the Constitution requires legislation,
  • ratification is contingent on prior agreement being enshrined in that Act (Article 89 of the Constitution).

After a ratified international agreement has been published in the Journal of Laws, it becomes part of the national body of law and is directly applicable, except where application requires the promulgation of an Act. In addition, an international agreement ratified with prior consent enshrined in an Act takes precedence over an Act if it is incompatible with the agreement.

Legislation passed by an international organisation is also applied directly and takes precedence in the event of a conflict with Acts where this is provided for in the agreement setting up that organisation and ratified by Poland (Article 91 of the Constitution). Article 91 of the Constitution defines the place of Community law in the domestic legal order.

EU primary legislation in the form of international agreements forms part of the domestic legal order, is directly applicable and takes precedence over Acts. EU secondary legislation is directly applicable and takes precedence in the event of a conflict with Acts.

Acts are subordinate to the Constitution and to international agreements ratified with prior consent enshrined in an Act but rank higher than regulations. An Act may be passed on any subject, but the most important issues can only be regulated by an Act (e.g. the Budget Act, legislation defining the legal status of citizens, the rules governing local government systems and their mandate). Normative acts passed by government bodies can be issued only by virtue of an authorisation enshrined in an Act with a view to its implementation. The Constitution sometimes requires the adoption of the corresponding Act, outlining the solutions it provides for.