Saturday, 27 November 2010

Włodzimierz Tomaszewski: smile please

As a civil servant in England, I didn't get to know any politicians. I met a few in briefing sessions or supporting the minister in meetings, but they were remote figures huddled together in the ministerial office area at the top of the tower, setting the policies with us below doing the work. Indeed, the only one I recall, and that with some fondness, is John Redwood who, with good reason, could have been quite nasty to me, but instead acted as a perfect gentleman.

The Polish system is very different, with junior ministers - Under Secretaries of State - working alongside their civil servants and often supported by politically motivated civil servant Directors. They are much more part of the work of the system. As a result, I got to know ministers as more than shadowy figures and had the pleasure of seeing Directors, both in central and regional government, move up to ministerial rank.

I have particular respect, however, for Włodzimierz Tomaszewski, who was Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Regional Development and Construction, third from the right at the top in the picture below.

However, I don't remember him as a smiling face, but rather as looking worried and fatigued, sitting behind a desk full of papers or explaining everything at conferences and meetings. The picture below has him looking relatively relaxed, but is more characteristic of the way I remember him.

His prime political work at this time was called the Voivodeship Contracts. This had two aims. Regional Governments had been created to devolve power to the regions, but they had no independent income and little real power. The Contracts were intended to set up a strategic policy framework - Operational Programmes, where all central government expenditure at regional level - eg through regional offices - would be devolved to regional government. In the end, the refusal of other Ministries to give up direct control of their expenditure left a very limited pot of money, mainly EU pre-accession assistance and supporting Polish own funds.

The Contracts were also designed to give the regional governments practical experience in running EU model Operational Programmes for Structural Funds (regional development) money, as standardly applied across existing EU members. The idea was that Poland would be fully prepared for accession by actually having run an equivalent system - a unique idea, strange as it might seem. The programmes began and started to work, even if in a more limited fashion than originally intended. Brilliant though this seemed, however, the European Commission decided that Poland should request the Commission to deliver the Structural Funds through central government and not regional governments. (Sorry if this sounds gobbledygook, but that's how it works.)

The next time I saw him was on television when, as Vice-President of the city of Łódż (roughly woodsh), he was introducing a local rap group at a free festival. Compared with the way I remember him, he looked so relaxed and happy that I just felt good seeing such a change.

Which is really the reason for writing this. I saw him again on TV at the results ceremony for the recent elections, where he was standing for President of Łódż. He was smiling and relaxed again, though I don't think he won. He has a nice smile, though too often tinged with a look of anxious sadness.

I know nothing of his politics and am not trying to recommend him politically. Having a nice smile, being a nice person and a dedicated worker are not enough. Admirable qualities, all the same.

Some more photos are available on his website personal page, whilst his Polish Wikipedia entry is here. (Both in Polish.)

And for fun, Łódż Daily newspaper has a video clip for us voyeurs.

All photos are from the internet.


Sarah said...

I really enjoy reading your stuff.
I havent been here in while because you had stopped writing.
I'm glad to see you're back at it now.
I also enjoy the pics.

Sarah said...

I'm marcin (aka turkeyhunter)
For some reason this thing posted under my wife's identity.