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Graham Welch looks at how Poland's regions are escaping their Soviet past ...
Graham Welch looks at how Poland's regions are escaping their Soviet past

The scars of the last century are still visible on the Polish psyche, as well as on the landscape. In a country that has regained real autonomy only relatively recently, plans to regionalise the country have met with some opposition.

While Poles were tired of the Soviet-style centralised state, they were afraid that creating strong regional government would see national borders redrawn yet again. These fears have proved groundless, but regionalisation in Poland is still not without its problems.

'Three years on, the big issue is the lack of funding for the regional administrations,' says Krystyna Wroblewska, head of international development in Pomerania. Regional governments can not impose taxes. Instead, central government takes 1.5% of income tax and 0.5% of corporate tax and redistributes this back to the regions. 'The result is that decentralisation has not been a success,' she says.

No wonder, then, that Polish regions have been looking at the income-generating possibilities of international partnerships. The Local Government International Bureau has helped 36 Polish towns twin with UK towns and has worked with the British Embassy in Warsaw on four regional links.

With chronic underfunding of the administrations, the newest tier of government looks set for hard times.

Polish accession to the EU, set for 2004, will enable it to tap into European funding and, hopefully, repeat Ireland's economic transformation. Regional government may yet help Poland earn the title of Baltic Tiger.

Graham Welch

Media officer, LGIB

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