International legal frameworks binding on Poland

Article 87(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland enumerates – among the sources of universally binding law – ratified international agreements. Thus, these agreements form a part of the domestic legal order and have precedence over national laws in the event of potential collision with these laws, if they have been ratified with the prior consent granted by an Act of Parliament, particularly Article 91(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland.

Since 1 May 2004, that is from the moment of Poland’s accession to the European Union, EU legal acts, and first of all – treaties, regulations and directives, have become national legal standards. Pursuant to Article 91(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland they have precedence over the national legislation if the latter governs a given issue in a different way than the relevant EU legislation.

Provisions of treaties and regulations become ipso jure a part of the Member State’s (including Poland) legal order. Regulations are directly applicable with no necessity for their ratification, while directives should be introduced to the national legal order within a period from one to three years.

Nationals of the Member States of the European Union (EU) or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) may move freely within these communities and take up employment in countries that also belong thereto. An individual who has lived and worked in several EU or EFTA countries, has been covered by several different national social security systems.

Issues related to coverage by several different national social security systems in EU or EFTA Member States is governed by the social security coordination, which is based on fundamental principles of:

  • equal treatment,
  • free movement of persons,
  • unity of applicable legislation,
  • retention of acquired rights,
  • aggregation of periods.

The equal treatment principle applies to a national of an EU or EFTA Member State who works in another EU or EFTA Member State. It means that this person enjoys the same rights to benefits and has the same obligations as nationals of that state. This principle excludes any discrimination in granting the right to benefits on the basis of nationality.

The principle of free movement of persons allows nationals of an EU or EFTA Member State to move freely to another EU or EFTA Member State to work or run their own business there. Such a person is subject to social insurance in the country of employment or self-employment. According to this principle, he/she may enjoy the same rights to cash benefits in respect of sickness and maternity in that country as a national of that country.

The principle of unity of the applicable legislation means that a person who takes up employment or runs business in another EU or EFTA Member State is subject to social insurance only in one state, i.e. the one where he/she works.

The principle of acquired rights retention guarantees that the rights to social insurance benefits shall be retained when moving to another EU or EFTA Member State.

The principle of periods’ aggregation allows taking into account periods of insurance in another EU or EFTA Member State in order to grant the right to benefits when the insured person does not have a sufficient period of insurance or residence in one country.

Issues related to the social security coverage in different states and the rights to benefits under different systems are regulated in detail by the European Union legislation.

Legal acts of the European Union regulate the coordination of the following social security benefits:

  • old-age pensions and pre-retirement benefits,
  • disability and other pensions,
  • sickness and maternity benefits,
  • family benefits,
  • health benefits,
  • unemployment benefits,
  • death benefits.

The basic legal acts of the EU in the social security sphere are the European Community treaties and the following acts issued on their basis:

  • Regulation (EC) no. 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of social security systems,
  • Regulation (EC) no. 987/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 September 2009 laying down the procedure for implementing Regulation (EC) no. 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems,
  • Regulation (EU) no. 1231/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 extending Regulation (EC) no. 883/2004 and Regulation (EC) no. 987/2009 to nationals of third countries who are not already covered by these Regulations solely on the ground of their nationality,
  • Council Directive (EEC) no. 7/79 of 19 December 1978 on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security,
  • Directive (EU) 24/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2011 on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.

Besides, the following regulations still remain in force:

  • Regulation (EEC) no. 1408/71 of the Council of 14 June 1971 on the application of social security schemes to employed persons, self-employed persons and their families moving within the Community,
  • Council Regulation (EEC) no. 574/72 of 21 March 1972 fixing the procedure for implementing Regulation (EEC) no. 1408/71 on the application of social security schemes to employed persons, self-employed persons and their families moving within the Community.

They allow for:

  • implementation of Council Regulation (EC) no. 859/2003 of 14 May 2003 extending the provisions of Regulation (EEC) no. 1408/71 and Regulation (EEC) no. 574/72 to nationals of third countries who are not yet covered by those provisions solely on the ground of their nationality – provisions of this Regulation apply solely to nationals of third countries who are legally resident in the territory of the United Kingdom or to nationals of third countries who have completed insurance periods in the United Kingdom and are resident in the territory of another Member State,
  • determination of the appropriate legislation for the period before the regulations (EC) 883/2004 and 987/2009 came into force, i.e. 1 May 2010.

The European Union Regulations on the coordination of the social security systems have superseded – from the moment of Poland’s accession to the European Union – bilateral international agreements on social security, which had earlier bound Poland with the Member States. However, several specific regulations of agreements between Poland and Austria and between Poland and Germany, advantageous for Polish citizens, still remain in force:

  • Article 33(3) of the Convention of 7 September 1998 between the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Austria on social security (crediting of insurance periods completed before 27 November 1961); application of this provision is limited to persons covered by this Convention,
  • Agreement of 9 October 1975 between the Polish People’s Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany on old-age pensions and on accident insurance within the scope covered by Article 27 (2) – (4) of the Agreement of 8 December 1990 between the Republic of Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany on social security (maintenance – based on the Agreement of 1975 – of the legal status for persons who were residents of Germany or Poland before 1 January 1991 and who still reside there,
  • Article 27(5) and Article 28(2) of the Agreement of 8 December 1990 between the Republic of Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany on social security (maintenance of rights to pensions paid pursuant to the Agreement of 1957 concluded with the former German Democratic Republic; crediting of insurance periods completed by Polish employees pursuant to the Agreement of 1988 concluded with the former German Democratic Republic).

In reference to the withdrawal of the Great Britain from the European Union and ending of so-called “transition period” in relation of European Union – Great Britain as of 1 January 2021 in relations with Member States of the European Union and Great Britain the following acts apply:

  • Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (Agreement entered into force since1 February 2020),
  • Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (Agreement is in force since 1 January 2021).

The following bilateral agreements on social security are in force with the states outside of the European Union:

  • Agreement of 16 January 1958 between the Government of the Polish People’s Republic and the Government of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia on social insurance – with respect to: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro,
  • Agreement on social security between the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Macedonia signed on 6 April 2008 as well as the administrative agreement in relation to the use of the said signed on 27 June 2007 (in force since 1 July 2007),
  • Agreement on social security between the Republic of Poland and the United States of America signed in Warsaw on 2 April 2008 and the administrative arrangement on its application, signed on the same day (in force since 1 March 2009),
  • Agreement on social security between the Republic of Poland and Canada signed in Warsaw on 2 April 2008 and the administrative arrangement on its application, signed on the same day (in force since 1 October 2009),
  • Agreement on social security between the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Korea (South Korea), signed in Warsaw on 25 February 2009 and administrative arrangement on its application, signed on the same day (in force since 1 March 2010),
  • Agreement on social security between the Republic of Poland and Australia signed in Warsaw on 7 October 2009 and the administrative arrangement on its application, signed on the same day, entered into force on 1 October 2010;
  • Agreement on social security between the Republic of Poland and Ukraine signed in Warsaw on 18 May 2012 and the administrative arrangement on its application, signed on the same day, entered into force on 1 January 2014;
  • Agreement on social security between the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Moldova signed on 9 September 2013 and the administrative arrangement on its application, signed on the same day (in force since 1 December 2014).
  • Agreement between the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Germany on export of specific benefits for entitled persons who reside in the territory of the Republic of Poland, signed in Warsaw on 5 December 2014; it concerns persons persecuted by the National Socialist regime and members of their families who, due to their place of residence in the territory of the Republic of Poland, have not received benefits for periods of employment in a ghetto under German pension regulations; the agreement entered into force on 1 June 2015,
  • Agreement on social security between the Government of the Republic of Poland and the Government of Quebec [Province of Canada], signed in Quebec on 3 June 2015, and the administrative arrangement for the implementation of the Agreement, signed on the same date (effective from 1 September 2018),
  • Agreement between the Republic of Poland and Mongolia on social security, signed in Warsaw on 24 January 2018, and administrative arrangement for the implementation of the Agreement, signed on the same date (the Agreement entered into force on 1 July 2019),
  • Agreement between the Republic of Poland and the State of Israel on social security, signed in Jerusalem on 22 November 2016, and the administrative arrangement for the implementation of the Agreement, signed on the same date (in force since 1 May 2021),
  • Agreement between the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Turkey on social security, signed in Warsaw on 17 October 2017, and the administrative arrangement for the implementation of the Agreement, signed on the same date (in force since 1 June 2021).

Besides, Poland is bound by the international conventions and recommendations of the International Labour Organisation and the provisions of the European Social Charter of the Council of Europe. On 6 September 2012 Poland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention entered into force on 25 October 2012.