1.2 National youth law
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The first attempts to lay down the foundations for the functioning of youth policy in Poland were linked to the EU accession process. They resulted in the “State Strategy for Youth for 2003-2012” (Strategia Państwa dla Młodzieży na lata 2003-2012), however, it “failed to (...) trigger the implementation of EU programmes and to influence the integration of the community of youth organisations”. Polish youth policy has no systemic solutions, nor is it operated and coordinated in a consistent way (Wiktorska-Święcicka, 2016). It cannot be said that before Poland’s accession to the European Union there were no activities targeting young people or their activation and inclusion in public life. Such activities were undertaken as part of sectoral policies operated within individual ministries. Poland’s accession to the European Union probably contributed to paying more attention to issues relating to young people’s lives and functioning (Raczek, 2014).
It is impossible to indicate one official document focussing on the needs and rights of young people and regulating issues relating to them (“Youth Law”). However, this does not mean that Polish legislation does not cover young people’s lives, rights and duties. Youth-related regulations are provided in various legal acts, such as the Constitution of the Republic of Poland (of 1997) Family and Guardianship Code (as amended) Labour Code (as amended) Juvenile Proceedings Act (as amended), Education Law (as amended), Act on Higher Education (as amended), Post-graduate Placements Act (as amended), Act on health care for pupils, or the Associations Act (as amended).
“The Republic of Poland shall ensure protection of the rights of the child. Everyone shall have the right to demand of organs of public authority that they defend children against violence, cruelty, exploitation and actions which undermine their moral sense” (art. 72 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland). Parents have the right to bring up a young person in agreement with their convictions, however, they should take into account his/her degree of maturity, freedom of conscience and his/her convictions (art. 48 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland).Young people’s rights, being part of the catalogue of human rights, can be divided into four main categories - personal, political (or public), social and economic rights. Coming of age offers young people new opportunities and full participation in public life. Young people - provided they are not incapacitated or deprived of public (or voting) rights - who are 18 or over may participate in referendums, elect the President of the Republic of Poland, Polish Parliament deputies, senators and local government representatives (art. 62 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland). Young people under 18 may join associations however, they may not establish non-governmental organisations until they are 18 (art 3 of the Associations Act of 1989,as amended). The observance of young people’s rights is supervised by the Ombudsman for Children (Rzecznik Praw Dziecka) and the Ombudsman (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich).