DOES THE GOVERNMENT WANT TO HEAL OR LIQUIDATE THE POLISH COOPERATIVE MOVEMENT?
As a senator of the Polish Republic, I do not participate in works of the Special Committee for obvious reasons; the Committee was established by the Sejm in January 2013 to consider projects of two cooperative acts: about cooperatives - the key act and about housing cooperatives – a detailed act which is supposed to replace the act of 15 December 2000. For the latter one has been novelized as many times as the Constitutional Tribunal has referred to it, that everybody are unanimous about writing it anew. However, there is a question: what form will it have?
I want to remind that the Sejm Special Committee for considering act projects in the sphere of the cooperative law is not the first committee of this type, because in 2004 the Special Commission was also established for elaborating a new act the cooperative Law. As far as I remember, the MP at that time, Zofia Grzebisz-Nowicka was conducting works very effectively. They were finished. I participated in them as an expert. There was much time for the Sejm to enact this law. I think that it was a good and modern issue. If it had been enacted, it would implement its functions. Unfortunately, the Sejm speaker at that time Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz did not manage to give a course to it. His cadency finished and the act got to the archive. It does not mean that the present Special Committee would not be able to reach for it.
Also the late president of the Polish Republic Lech Kaczyński set up a team of experts whose purpose was elaborating a new cooperatives act. It was elaborated by experts and, as we remember, in the mid of July 2008, the Sejm rejected it in the first reading. In the previous cadency there were also attempts of enacting very bad cooperative acts from the initiative of the Civil Platform. It happened well that these acts had not been accepted.
Now another Special Committee is functioning, which is going to elaborate new cooperatives acts. Its chief is the MP Marek Gos from the Polish Peasant Party. Unfortunately, after several meetings of this committee, its achievements are miserable and undergoing discussions but works are not advancing. There has already been half of the cadency and there is a concern that it will be impossible to enact the law about cooperatives again. Because this is a complicated legislative process and cooperative movement has always aroused controversies among politicians. The effect may be that the next project will go to the bin. And the thesis, which I once proclaimed, that the act of 16 September 1982 will be binding for a long time, will be acknowledged again.
What am I afraid of? I am afraid of another quick government novelization of the law from 1982 which would go in the same direction, as it took place in the end of the previous cadency of the Sejm, when provisions of the cooperative law were novelized (art. 204 and next), which makes it possible to transform the work cooperative into commercial companies. At the moment in lobbies of the parliament it is said that projects of the law novelization the cooperative Law are being prepared which will make it possible to transform commercial cooperatives – PSS Społem, Peasants’ Self-Help and others running commercial activity – into the companies of the commercial law.
So, it may happen that even when a law about cooperatives will be enacted, it will not have any addressees because cooperative movement will be liquidated earlier or marginalized in the social-economic life of Poland.
Recently the Senate of the Polish Republic (28 October 2013) organized a conference on directions of changes in the cooperative law in Poland. It referred both to the general problem of the cooperative law and to the matter connected with key issues concerning housing cooperatives and financial cooperatives, that is, Credit Unions and cooperative banks.
Moreover, the conference analyzed the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Tribunal in the sphere of cooperative movement. All members of the Sejm Special Committee had been invited. Unfortunately, none of MPs arrived at this conference. And it is a pity because it met with great interest. If we had known that MPs would not have arrived, we would have invited other people who would have been willing to listen to pronouncements of experts. Materials of this conference will be published and I hope that they will be used in the ongoing legislative works on the cooperative law. Lectures were given by leading Polish experts in the sphere of cooperative movement and the cooperative law.
For many years cooperative Saving and Credit Unions have been under a magnifying glass. The government managed to implement a new law which is very unfavorable for the whole system of Credit Unions. It is in the Constitutional Tribunal. I am not afraid to note that it is a legal dud. This law was even appealed against by president Bronisław Komorowski.
The housing cooperatives have also been attacked recently and there are attempts to transform them into residential communities, that is, simply liquidate them. Leading cooperatives activists of self-government authorities were brutally attacked by some media, which is an evidence for the fact that there is no place for cooperative movement in our country. I am afraid that cooperative activists will have to defend their economic interests on their own because cooperative property is a private property of the members. There are no legal doubts about it.