The President of the Republic of Poland as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland

The powers of the President of the Republic of Poland in the scope of State security and national defence result from the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 2 April 1997.

The provision of Art. 126 clause 2 of the Constitution provides that “the President shall ensure the proper observance of the Constitution, safeguard the sovereignty and security of the State, as well as the inviolability and integrity of its territory”.

Furthermore, pursuant to the provisions of Art. 133 of the Constitution, “the President shall be the State representative in foreign affairs”.

The general constitutional norm related to the issue of safeguarding the State sovereignty and security as well as the inviolability and integrity of its territory was expanded on in the Act of 21 November 1967 on universal obligation to defend the Republic of Poland (Journal of Laws of 2004 No. 241, Item 2416 as amended).

Pursuant to Art. 4a, Clause 1 of the Act, the President shall:

  • approve, on the application of the Prime Minister, the national security strategy;
  • issue, on the application of the Prime Minister, by decision, the Political and Strategic Defence Directive of the Republic of Poland and other executive documents for the national security strategy;
  • approve, on the application of the Council of Ministers, plans for the national trainings related to defence system and be in charge of their course;
  • make decision, on the application of the Prime Minister, concerning the introduction or change of a particular defence readiness of the State;
  • may address all public, governmental and self-governmental administration entities, entrepreneurs, heads of other organisational units and social organisations to obtain information important to state’s security and defences;
  • initiate and provide patronage for the ventures directed at developing patriotic and defence attitudes in the society.

The documents approved and issued by the President constitute the basis for the implementation of the undertakings and planning of the intentions in the field of State security policy, as well as with respect to taking decisions aiming at the improvement the State defence system.

The general competences within the scope of safeguarding the State sovereignty and security and the inviolability and integrity of its territory oblige the President to analyse and assess any threats and activate the actions permissible by law with a view to counteracting the said threats.

Depending on the nature and degree of external threat to the State, the President may order, at the request of the Prime Minister, common or partial mobilisation and use of the armed forces to defend the Republic of Poland (Art. 136).

Another important prerogative of the head of State is described in Art. 234 of the Constitution which reads as follows: “If during the Martial Law period , the Sejm cannot convene its meeting, the President of the Republic of Poland shall, on the application of the Council of Ministers, issue statutory instruments within the scope and limits prescribed by Art. 228 clauses 3-5. The said decrees shall be approved by the Sejm during the forthcoming meeting".

The constitutional norm provides special powers to the President, at his sole disposal in a specific situation in the country and within the specific time, by the rights which can be exercised both by the legislative and the executive authorities. It should be emphasised that the President is the only person who is granted such competences, which proves his key role in the State security system.

Furthermore, on the basis of the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, the President, with respect to the State security, shall:

  • award, at the request of the Minister of National Defence, the military ranks defined in the appropriate acts (Art. 134 clause 5);
  •  in the event of any threat to the State from the outside, armed attack on the territory of Poland or where the international agreements prescribe common defence against aggression, at the request of the Council of Ministers, may introduce the martial law on the part or whole territory of the State (Art. 229);
  • in the event of any threat to the State constitutional system, the security of its citizens or public law and order, at the request of the Council of Ministers, may introduce, for a limited period of time no longer than 90 days, the state of emergency on any part or on the whole of the State territory (Art.230 clause 1).

 

It should be stressed that pursuant to Art. 11 clause 1 of the Act of 21 June 2002 on the state of emergency, the President of the Republic of Poland, during such state, at the request of the Prime Minister, may elect to use contingents and detachments of the Polish Armed Forces to restore normal law and order and operation of the State if the forces and means used thus far have been exhausted.

The competences of the President of the Republic of Poland in the security and defence of the State are also defined in the Act on the universal obligation to defend the Republic of Poland. They concern mainly exercising supervision over the Armed Forces:

The President of the Republic of Poland, as the Commander-In-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces shall, at the request of the Minister of National Defence, determine the key directions of the development of the Armed Forces and their preparation to defend the State (Art. 5 clause 1), as well as may take part in the briefing of the executives of the Ministry of National Defence and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland (Art. 5 clause 2).

Furthermore, the President shall, on the application of the Council of Ministers or the Prime Minister, decide about the deployment of the Armed Forces outside the territory of Poland. The above shall take place in the event of use of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland outside the state borders in order to take part in:

  • military conflict or to reinforce the forces of the state or of the allied countries;
  • peace mission;
  • actions aiming at preventing the acts of terror or the results thereof.

War period and the resulting specific nature of management of the State and its defence require the acceptance of the rule of unilateral command and bearing one-person responsibility. The constitutional provisions mentioned before pertaining to the President’s powers in this respect, including acting as the supreme commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, taking decision on the common mobilisation and use of the armed forces to the Republic of Poland, appointing for the time of war the Commander-In-Chief of the polish Armed Forces, issuing decrees during the period of martial law, predispose the President to manage the State defence during the period of any threat to the State security and during periods of war. However, in this case the component of cooperation between two centres of the executive authority is maintained. The above is regulated by Art. 10 of the Act referred to above on the martial law, which reads as follows:

“Where it is necessary to defend the State during the martial law period, the defence shall be managed by the President of the Republic of Poland in collaboration with the Council of Ministers”.

The President of the Republic of Poland, during the martial law period, shall in particular:

  • elect, at the request of the Council of Ministers, to assign the public authorities the specific positions;
  • decide, at the request of the Council of Ministers, about the state of military readiness of the Republic of Poland, hereinafter referred to as the Armed Forces;
  • determine, at the request of the Council of Ministers, the responsibilities of the Armed Forces during the period of martial law;
  • may appoint, on the application of the Prime Minister, the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces;
  • approve, at the request of the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, the operational plans of the use of the Armed Forces;

designate, at the request of the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, the specific areas of the Republic of Poland as the areas of direct warfare”.

While analysing the legal instruments that are in the possession of the President, one cannot overlook the powers related to the assurance of State’s internal security. Where the use of the armed contingents and squads of police turns out to be insufficient, the President may decide, at the request of the Prime Minister, to use the contingents and detachments of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland to assist the Police.

In view of the wide competences granted to the president, particularly those pertaining to the exercising the position of the guardian of the security and sovereignty of the State as well as the inviolability and integrity of its territory, the Constitution sets up the National Security Council as the counselling authority of the President in respect of the internal and external security of the State.

In order to ensure the forum of collaboration in respect of the executive power, the Constitution establishes one more authority in the shape of the Cabinet Council which, however, does not hold any such executive competences.

Pursuant to the Act on the universal obligation to defend the State, the President of the Republic of Poland carries out his responsibilities within the scope of security and defence of the state with assistance from the National Security Council. In the absence of the proper strategic centre at the State level, the body is also responsible for monitoring the undertakings that have an impact on the security and defence of the State.

The President, holding the competences as described above, forms the key link in the security system of our country creating the integrated structure which incorporates all forces and measures of the State provided for the implementation of the security tasks.