Ethnic diversity and local governance quality

The case of Opole Province in Poland

by Wojciech Opioła (Author) Bartosz Czepil (Author)
Monographs 238 Pages
Open Access

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • I Research methodology
  • 1 The meaning of the project
  • 2 Literature review
  • 3 The concept and the main research stages
  • II Ethnic diversity and quality of governance. Conceptualization and measurement at the commune level
  • 1 Commune in the Polish political system
  • 2 Ethnic diversity
  • The number of groups
  • A group differentiation basis
  • Group size ratios
  • Dynamics of changes
  • Cultural distance
  • Method of measurement
  • 3 Quality of governance
  • III A characterization of the Opolskie province. Cultural diversity as a distinctive feature
  • 1 The Opolskie province as a region
  • 2 The place of the Opolskie province in the European Governance Quality Index
  • 3 The Opolskie province’s history of multiculturalism
  • 4 The present state of multiculturalism in Opole Silesia
  • IV Quantitative analysis: the results of measurements and their interpretation
  • 1 General characteristics of selected communes
  • 2 Results of the governance quality measurement
  • 3 Correlation analysis
  • 4 Interpretation
  • V. Qualitative analysis. Case studies of selected communes
  • 1 Kolonowskie
  • Governance quality profile
  • Geographic and demographic position
  • Economy
  • Specific features in the material, symbolic, and identity-related areas
  • Political life
  • Attempt to explain the governance quality profile
  • 2 Walce
  • Governance quality profile
  • Geographic and demographic position
  • Economy
  • Specific features in the material, symbolic, and identity-related areas
  • Political life
  • Attempt to explain the governance quality profile
  • 3 Paczków
  • Governance quality profile
  • Geographic and demographic position
  • Economy
  • Specific features in the material, symbolic, and identity-related areas
  • Political life
  • Attempt to explain the governance quality profile
  • 4 Domaszowice
  • Governance quality profile
  • Geographic and demographic position
  • Economy
  • Specific features in the material, symbolic, and identity-related areas
  • Political life
  • Attempt to explain the governance quality profile
  • Conclusions
  • Annex 1 A table of the governance quality indexes
  • Annex 2 A detailed description of the particular governance quality indexes
  • Annex 3 The CAWI questionnaire (sent on 7 July 2017)
  • List of figures
  • List of maps
  • List of tables
  • List of interviews
  • Literature

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This book is devoted to relations between the ethnic diversity of the region and the quality of governance at the local level. Opolskie province in Poland is a case for explaining this interdependence, because of its history of multiculturalism, its changes after 1946, and the present state of its ethnic diversity. The important feature of the analyzed region is, that nearly half of the communes is ethnically homogenous when the rest is ethnically diversified with a strong position of German and Silesian minorities.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, under the influence of international organizations promoting the cause of global development, the notion of good governance has become an important category in both the normative and analytical dimensions. The World Bank, the International Currency Fund, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the United Nations Organization regard so-called good governance as a prerequisite for the effective use of development assistance and a foundation for social and economic development (Khan 2016: 4–5). Simultaneously, as Tadeusz Borys notes after reviewing various concepts of good governance, they are deprived of a universal character because they usually concern the national level, “with marginal references to the local level” (Borys 2014: 61). This is also noticed by Grzegorz Kula, according to whom “important aspects of good governance refer to the very structure of a state, its political system and traditions, therefore, it is difficult to assess them at the levels lower than the central one” (Kula 2013: 284). Simultaneously, Kula observes that “theoretically, the shorter the distance between authorities and citizens, the easier it is to assess the quality of governance” (Ibidem 286). It seems therefore that the problem of measuring the quality of governance should be less complicated at the level of local government than at the central level. Not only the alleged ease of access to information on activities of local authorities but also the fact that the individual directly experiences the result of the governance process at this level determine the importance of research on the quality of governance at the commune level. According to the authors, this position is supported by the still valid opinion of Alexis de Tocqueville on the special role of commune institutions which “for freedom, are what primary schools are for science: they cause freedom to become available to the people, allow it to develop a taste for its practice, and make it accustomed to use it” (De Tocqueville 2005: 57). Thus, the commune has an enormous potential for political socialization consistent with ←9 | 10→the spirit of the international standards of good governance, but it is also a unit in which, because of its sociological features, there exist considerable opportunities for the implementation of such standards.

Offered to readers, this book is the crowning element of the research project carried out by the authors in the years 2016–2019 thanks to a grant obtained from the Polish National Science Centre. The original idea motivating the authors was to combine their respective research experience in the fields of local politics, borderland issues, and multiculturalism of the Opolskie province (Opioła and Trzcielińska Polus 2013; Ganowicz and Opioła 2017; Opioła 2014a; 2014b; 2015) as well as governance quality and anti-corruption (Czepil 2014; 2015; 2016). This bore fruit in the form of a proposal to examine the quality of governance at the commune level and to diagnose to what extent and in what manner local governance quality could be influenced by the ethnic diversity of a particular commune’s inhabitants. As the area of their research, the authors selected the Opolskie province, where a half of the communes are inhabited by German and Silesian communities.

At the beginning the authors were also interested in the issue of the strength of a local civil society. However, during the course of the project the decision was made – in accordance with the practice of research on governance quality – to treat a civil society as one of the dimensions of governance quality (participation).

In accordance with the adopted research method (nested analysis), the authors first conducted a statistical analysis based on the existing data (supplemented with a questionnaire survey). On the basis of the quantitative data, four communes were selected for the next stage of a qualitative analysis with a view to a more thorough exploration of possible relations between ethnic diversity and governance quality.

The theoretical and methodological guidelines for the research were developed in 2015. In 2016, following project reviewers’ suggestions, the authors simplified some elements of the research process. The operationalization of the basic research categories, the selection of indicators, and the preparation of governance quality and ethnic diversity indexes, as well as a statistical analysis were carried out in 2016 and 2017. A CAWI questionnaire was administered in the middle of 2017 and the period from June 2018 to June 2019 was devoted to qualitative research conducted in the four communes of the Opolskie province: Domaszowice, Kolonowskie, Paczków and Walce. Simultaneously, from the spring of 2018 the authors were working on the final version of a research report in the form of this very book.

The book consists of five chapters. As this publication is a research report, there are considerable differences in the volumes of the particular chapters, but ←10 | 11→the authors decided to maintain the originally adopted structure of the book consistent with the logic of the conducted research. Chapter one includes a presentation of the research problem, research questions and hypotheses. It also contains a review of the literature on relations between ethnic diversity and quality of governance, as well as certain preliminary assumptions/dilemmas allowing the authors to place the research in a broader context. The final part of chapter one describes the subsequent research stages and defines the basic notions applicable to the reality under examination, i.e. ethnic diversity and governance quality.

Chapter two describes the theoretical background for the conducted research. It starts with a general description of the Polish commune, which constitutes a unit of analysis in the research. It is followed by an operationalization of the notion of “ethnic diversity” and deliberations on issues related to the measurement of ethnic diversity that the authors had to deal with. The last part of chapter two contains an operationalization of the notion of “governance quality” and a presentation of the authors’ original local level governance quality index.

Chapter three is devoted to a description of the Opolskie province, in particular its multiculturalism as a feature distinguishing it from the other regions of Poland. It also contains a short historical analysis of the multiculturalism and borderlandness of the region as well as a comparison between its social and economic situation and those of the other Polish provinces.

Chapter four constitutes a presentation of the results of the quantitative analysis conducted by the authors. It contains a part of the collected statistical data, an analysis of correlations between the governance quality index and the level of ethnic diversity, as well as first conclusions and additional questions that arose in consequence of the conducted data analysis.

The longest in the book, chapter five presents four case studies based on the selected communes of the Opolskie province. It describes the method of selecting cases for the qualitative analysis, the procedures of collecting, analyzing and processing information, as well as four case studies based on one predetermined scheme.

The book ends with conclusions constituting responses to the questions posed and hypotheses proposed in its introductory part, as well as additional observations made during the course of the project. The final part of the book contains enclosures, lists of tables and figures, as well as a list of references.

From the perspective of the four years spent on the performance of the research described in the book, the authors regard it as an extremely difficult task. Being aware that the subject matter of the research belongs to one of the most inconclusive areas of research in social sciences (additionally, the manner of presentation depends on the discipline represented by a given researcher, and ←11 | 12→a particular issue can be studied by political scientists, sociologists, economists, and representatives of other disciplines), we would like to thank all those people who contributed to the final shape of the presented research. The anonymous reviewers of our research project proposal submitted (twice) to the National Science Centre. Our colleagues at the University of Opole, who during – frequently heated – discussions helped us to understand better the subject matter of our research, particularly Błażej Choroś, Borys Cymbrowski, Ewa Ganowicz, Danuta Kisielewicz, Aleksander Kwiatek, Marek Mazurkiewicz, Kamil Minkner, Magdalena Ozimek-Hanslik, and Krzysztof Zuba. The participants of the conferences (held in Luxembourg, Warsaw, Kamień Śląski, Šiauliai, Kiev) during which the authors discussed the assumptions for, and the results of, the research. The anonymous reviewers of the authors’ articles and the editors of academic periodicals and collective monographs in which the authors published partial results of their research. And last but not least, the reviewers of this book (and its Polish language version) and all those involved in the publication process.

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I Research methodology

The research problem of the study presented herein is the relation between the ethnic diversity of the Opolskie province and the quality of governance in particular communes of the region. The objective of the research project is a diagnosis of potential relations between this diversity and the quality of governance at the local level. The main research question to which the authors would like to provide an answer concerns the problem whether multi-ethnicity is a factor strengthening the quality of governance or rather a factor hindering the development of this aspect of the public sphere. To answer this question, it is necessary first to provide answers to several detailed questions: Is the level of the quality of governance in the Opolskie province communes with ethnic diversity different from that in ethnically homogeneous communes? How can diversity influence the quality of governance? What is the character of the relation and what are the social and political mechanisms through which the two aspects influence each other? Based on the above-mentioned questions, we want to present the following research hypotheses:

1. The quality of governance is higher in the Opolskie province communes with ethnic diversity in comparison to the quality of governance in the ethnically homogeneous communes.

2. The sense of identity of the minority in the Opolskie province (the German minority, citizens declaring their Silesian national identity) and their political interests are factors contributing to the higher quality of governance in the ethnically diversified communes.

1 The meaning of the project

The source of inspiration for the proposed study has been Robert Putnam’s study conducted in Italy in which he examined interregional differences in the dimension of civil participation models and institutional effectiveness (Putnam 1995). This perspective induced the project’s authors to ask questions concerning the influence of ethnic diversity in the Opolskie province on the differences occurring in particular between the eastern and western parts of the province (in the study, we do not take into consideration the influence of the Polish-Czech border area in the southern part of the province). Unlike in Putnam’s research, in our study it is the factor of national and ethnic diversity that we consider to be a major variable explaining the hypothetical differences in the quality of ←13 | 14→governance. The level of analysis is also different: while Putnam focused on differences between regions all given the same formal institutional structures of representation and their different cultural uses of them, the project’s authors are interested in a lower, local level of exploration and the ongoing elaboration of different formal and informal cultural regional representation structures over time as well.

At the provincial level, according to the data from national census carried out in 2011, the Opolskie province was inhabited by 895,000 people declaring Polish nationality1, 106,000 people declaring Silesian nationality, and 78,000 declaring German nationality. Furthermore, the census failed to establish the identity of over 22,000 people. Also, the number of people of Romany nationality was established at around 200 (according to the estimates of the Provincial Office, there are between 1500 and 2000 Romanies in the province), and 2700 people declared nationality other than Polish, Silesian, German or Romany. Analyzing the region with respect to minority group, we can divide the province into two parts: the eastern part with a considerable percentage of Germans and Silesians, and the western part, practically without any larger groups representing ethnic minorities.

The study is in line with the research tradition of the Opolskie province, but also goes beyond its dominant perspective. The fundamental constitutive elements of researches conducted by political scientists in the Opolskie province are the functioning of the German minority in the region and the consequences of the post-war population relocations (cf. Berlińska 1999; Lis 1993; 2013; Madajczyk 2001; Trosiak 2013; Trzcielińska-Polus 1999)2. In a previous research focusing on the Opolskie province, two significant patterns have been observed that should be taken into consideration in the context of the presented research problem:

2. In the Opolskie province, just like in the Śląskie and Dolnośląskie provinces, the phenomenon of Silesian self-identification of the population has ←15 | 16→intensified in the recent 15 years3. It is particularly worth analyzing the identification of the Silesian people in the context of identification with the German nationality – in the latest census a significant decrease of German nationality declarations was observed with a simultaneous considerable increase of Silesian identifications. The process needs to be thoroughly analyzed at the commune, and even village level. It is of great importance, since the German minority is politically empowered (and characterized by a high level of social ←16 | 17→life institutionalization), while the Silesians have only just started fighting for their political representation4.

In view of the above observations, it can be assumed that the Opolskie province is a specific region whose primary characteristic is the tradition of multiculturalism and the still present and experienced ethnic diversity (see Map 2). This state of affairs offers a natural possibility to explore the relations between diversity and the quality of governance at the local level.

The presented research project combines two aspects which are becoming more and more important in the light of contemporary civilizational transformations. The first aspect concerns the multiculturalism of regions and the development of regional identities, and it is in line with the current research agenda in the scope of regional policy in Europe (cf. Jeffery 2015; Mihajlović 2014; Paasi 2013; Riding and Jones 2017; Vainikka 2014). In this context, the project is a significant element broadening the knowledge of the functioning of multicultural regions on the continent. Processes similar to those observed in other EU regions occur also in the Opolskie province: migrations, growing economic disparity and social marginalization, increasing importance of double (national and regional) identification, decreasing interest in politics at both the European and national levels, and growing citizens’ participation in the regional and local dimensions. The last of the mentioned elements refers to the other aspect of the proposed study, i.e. a growing interest in the civil society and the quality of governance, and relations between these variables are more and more frequently emphasized. The following issues are of particular interest: social capital, trust, political participation being analyzed as phenomena connected with the quality of governance (cf. Działek 2011; Kaufman, Kraay, Mastruzzi 2007; Łopaciuk-Gonczaryk and Hardt 2013; Newton 2001; Portes 1998; Putnam 1995; 2001; Rothstein 2011; Wilkin 2013). In the study, we want to connect these aspects and ask questions about the cause-and-effect relations between the region’s multiculturalism and the power of its institutions. In social sciences, there have been numerous studies and theories related to this topic; in some of them Silesia has been considered a unit of analysis (Berlińska 1999; Cybula and Majcherkiewicz 2005; Szczepański 1998). One of the basic relations pointed out by researchers is the negative influence of ethnic diversity on the level of bridging social capital, social cohesion, quality of life or welfare, ←17 | 18→which results, for instance, from a lower level of trust in representatives of ethnic groups other than one’s own and a higher level of social capital and trust in ethnic representatives of one’s own group. (cf. Alesina et al. 2003; Dinesen and Sønderskov 2018; Putnam 2007; Rothstein and Charron 2014; Schaeffer 2013; Wallman Lundåsen and Wollebæk 2013, Wright and Bloemraad 2012).

2 Literature review

Two works published in the recent years deserve special attention in this research area. One of them is an analysis by Alberto Alesina, Arnaud Devleeschauwer, William Easterly, Sergio Kurlat and Romain Wacziarg concerning the relation between ethnic fractionalization and the social and economic development of states (Alesina et al. 2003), while the other is a lecture by Robert Putnam of 2007 on the influence of ethnic diversity on civic life in the United States (Putnam 2007).

Alesina’s work’s contribution to the research on relations between ethnic diversity and the quality of governance consists first of all in the development of a universal ethnic fractionalization index (EFI) by means of which comparative quantitative studies can be easily conducted. This index, which is also used in our analysis, takes into consideration two variables: the number of ethnic groups in the population and the proportions of the sizes of particular groups (Alesina et al. 2003: 158–159). Most of the subsequent works use the EFI to measure ethnic diversity. Unlike the previously used index of ethnolinguistic fractionalization (ELF), the EFI allows the measurement of fractionalization of groups with different characteristics other than language only (such as national and ethnic identification, religion; cf. Fearon 2003).

Nevertheless, the contribution of the previous researches based on the ELF is significant, in particular in explaining the so-called new liberal dilemma. Whereas the primary objective of liberal democracies is to develop conditions for the existence and respect of diversity, the very diversity seems to decrease citizens’ inclination to participate in public life and thus undermines the social foundations of the effective functioning of democratic institutions (Schaeffer 2013). Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishny (1999), based on data collected in 161 countries, explain that in ethnolinguistically homogeneous countries the quality of governance is higher than in countries diversified in this respect. Along with the growth of ethnic diversity, the level of state interventionism also rises, while the efficiency and quality of provided public services decrease. Exclusion or discrimination of ethnic minorities in their access to public services is a common phenomenon (Ibidem: 1220). Similar conclusions can be drawn from the research conducted by William Easterly and ←18 | 19→Ross Levine, who analyzed African countries and explained that the high level of ethnic diversity accounted for their political instability and a low level of provided public services (Easterly and Levine 1997).

Simultaneously, there were also studies criticizing the fractionalization index as not being the most adequate tool for examining cause-and-effect relations between multiculturalism and political phenomena or processes. For instance, Paul Collier in his article (2001) and later in the book (2007), failed to find such a relationship to being in a conflict trap related to ethnic diversity. It was only one kind of ethnic diversity that was socially/politically/violently destabilizing: “dominance” of one large ethnic minority in a mostly homogeneous country. Strong ethnic diversity was hardly a problem, but the medium level of diversity could be. James Fearon (2003) as well as Jose Montalvo and Marta Reynal-Querol (2005) observed that not just ethnic diversity, but cultural distance or polarization between ethnic groups within a particular community had much more significant explanatory potential. However, the polarization index proposed by Reynal-Querol (RQ index, Reynal-Querol 2002) was not as commonly accepted as the fractionalization index in social studies.

It is worth mentioning that in the case of the research presented in this book, we assume that the polarization cultural distance of all analyzed units taken into consideration by us is identical, as representatives of the same three ethnic groups live in each of the analyzed communes, but in different proportions. Therefore, in this case the fractionalization index is the right criterion of ethnic diversity.

While in the above mentioned studies scientists, chiefly economists, focused on cause-and-effect relations between a high level of ethnic diversity and a low level of the quality of governance and welfare, in subsequent studies scholars started searching for answers to the question whether ethnic diversity was the only basic element of differences in that respect. Paul Collier argued that ethnic diversity had a much more negative impact in non-democratic regimes, while stable democratic countries coped much better with their communities’ multiculturalism (Collier 2000). Jan Delhey and Kenneth Newton (2005) observed the direct influence of ethnic homogeneity on a higher level of trust and the indirect influence on the quality of governance, life and economic egalitarianism. Scholars also started wondering whether, and in which conditions, ethnic diversity could be a factor strengthening the governance process. According to Robert Putnam, in medium- and long-term perspectives, an ethnically diversified community could establish new forms of social solidarity and intra-ethnic trust (Putnam 2007). Presented during the Johan Skytte Prize Lecture, this thesis soon became a very influential point of reference for scholars examining relations between multiculturalism and the social and political stability of contemporary communities.

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In his work, Putnam focuses on numerous positive and negative aspects of growing ethnic diversity. Without referring to all examples presented therein, let us concentrate on the part of the research which concerns diversity at the local level. Basing on data from the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, Putnam points out that local heterogeneous communities in the United States are characterized by a lower level of trust in local authorities local media, lower election frequency (but simultaneously higher level of interest in politics), lesser inclination to participate in joint projects for the benefit of the local community, lower density of friendship networks, lower quality of life, greater importance of television as the basic source of entertainment (Putnam 2007: 149–150). Still, justifying his thesis of the positive effects of multiculturalism in a long-term perspective, Putnam points out that the history of the American society is the history of a multinational community which in the first half of the 20th century and right after WWII replaced the dominant ethnic nationalisms with civic nationalism (Americanism, ibidem: 162–163). The American society’s ethnic diversity is a multilevel diversity comprising the heritage of three processes: mass migration in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, primarily from European countries, slavery and, contemporary immigration from Latin America, Asia and the countries of Middle East. The first of the above mentioned processes is a confirmation of the thesis of possible long-term development of strong social capital and an active civil society in multinational communities. This factor – the history of long lasting coexistence of a multi-ethnic community – seems also to be of importance in the case of the communes of the Opolskie province, whose ethnic structures were formed basically 70 years ago.

Putnam’s theses soon started to be verified in other regions of the world. Maurice Gesthuizen, Tom van der Meer and Peer Scheepers (2008) determined that in the case of European democracies, such factors as economic inequalities and consolidation of a democratic regime in a state (the longer uninterrupted history of democracy, the higher the level of social capital) had much stronger influence on diversification in social capital among the European states continent than ethnic diversity. A similar relation was not found in another comparative study of European countries, either (Hooghe, Reeskens, Stolle and Trappers 2009). Analyzing the British society at the level of neighborhood communities, Patrick Sturgis, Ian Brunton-Smith, Sanna Read and Nick Allum (2011) did not show any statistically relevant cause-and-effect relations between ethnic diversity and social trust.

What is also worth mentioning is an interesting critique of Putnam’s approach to the study of cause-and-effect relations between ethnic diversity and social capital. According to Alejandro Portes, the variables analyzed by Putnam ←20 | 21→(social trust, civil society, ethnic diversity) correlate, but it cannot be stated that one is the consequence of another; they rather affect one another (Działek 2011; Portes 1998; Portes and Vickstrom 2011). Portes and Vickstrom also reverse the argument’s logic, and propose the thesis that it is the high quality of governance that can be the factor decreasing the negative effects of ethnic diversity and increasing the level of social trust (Portes and Vickstrom 2011: 476).

As it ensues from the previously presented review of the literature on the subject, most of the studies are comparative analyses at a national level. The basic dependent variable in most of the studies is also social capital or social cohesion; the quality of governance or civil society appears only as potential consequences. There are considerably fewer analyses conducted at a local level. These comprise the above quoted Putnam (2007) and Sturgis with his team (2011). An interesting example is the study on the influence of ethnic diversity on citizenship and an inclination to act collectively for the benefit of the local community conducted in rural settlements in Nepal (Baland, Bardhan, Das, Mookherjee and Sarkar 2007), in which no influence of diversity on the level of responsibility for the common good was shown. Many valuable guidelines can be found in the recent studies by Ruud Koopmans and Merlin Schaeffer on relations between ethnic diversity and social cohesion in the local urban communities in France, Germany and the Netherlands (Koopmans and Schaeffer 2016). The scholars confirmed the existence of a negative cause-and-effect relation between a community’s heterogeneity and social cohesion; they simultaneously proved that negative effects could be mitigated by conducting an appropriate immigration policy (integrative rather than assimilative).

The cultural specificity of the Opolskie province will be used here to verify the theoretical statements concerning relations between ethnic diversity and the quality of governance. Furthermore, it will be a study of the quality of governance in which the Opolskie province is not considered (which seems a dominant practice) to be a homogeneous entirety compared to other provinces (cf. Przewłocka et al. 2013; Skrzypiec 2013; Wilkin 2008), but rather a culturally heterogeneous region where it is possible to identify processes, phenomena and differences which fall outside analyses taking into consideration data aggregated at the provincial level. Thus the multicultural specificity of the Opolskie province and its hypothetical influence on the quality of governance in the region will be “discovered” for scholars interested in such relations. Finally, research results will allow an empirically consolidated reference to many common beliefs concerning the differences between the western and eastern part of the Opolskie province, which are stereotyped, and which are explained in third chapter.

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Relations between the multiculturalism of the Opolskie province and the quality of governance is a peripheral area of interest among researchers. The researchers who dealt with the issue of multiculturalism of the province did not focus on its relations with the quality of governance and, in fact, did not use this notion in their work. However, their research contains some themes which make it possible to draw some conclusions on relations between the multiculturalism of the province and phenomena relevant for the study of the quality of governance (e.g. the unique character of local social capital, participation, civil society, the quality of regional and local institutions). Therefore, in the subsequent part, we try to focus on these threads and conclusions of the research that concern relations between multiculturalism and phenomena determining the quality of governance.

In the studies dedicated to the first decades after the mass relocation campaign, the researcher drew attention to differences among the three “interest groups”, i.e. settlers, relocatees from the Eastern Borderlands, and autochthons, and competition among them. Settlers were perceived as the most dynamic group, while relocatees and the Silesian population were a socially disadvantaged group. In the case of Silesians, it was the result of their instrumental treatment by the authorities of the People’s Republic of Poland and discrimination with respect to access to public services as well as positions and jobs in local governing structures. Meanwhile, the social disadvantage of Borderlanders resulted from the sense of temporariness, the loss of their homelands, and negative stereotypes (Madajczyk and Berlińska 2008: 526). These groups – Silesians and relocatees from the Eastern Borderlands – were also perceived as competing against each other in the field of culture. On the other hand, settlers, who usually came to Opole Silesia voluntarily, were defined in opposition to Borderlanders and Silesians as the leading group embodying the “ideology of pioneers” (Kwaśniewski 1968: 168–169). Actually, the higher level of economic and cultural capital among the Silesian population was noticed and appreciated (e.g. Madajczyk and Berlińska 2008: 568; Rauziński 1986: 17), but this potential was not utilized optimally for development purposes. Moreover, in consequence of the successive waves of Silesians’ migration to the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1970s and the 1990s, this group, as well as the whole community of Opole Silesia, continued to disintegrate (Jacher 1991).

According to Maria Śmiełowska (1991), the character of contacts among the ethnic groups in Opole Silesia after the war was conflictual. This resulted from the opposing or incompatible standards and values of the cultures of the respective groups; contradictory group interests; civilizational barriers; the transfer of Poles’ negative emotional attitude toward Germans and German culture ←22 | 23→to Silesians; and Silesians’ negative attitude towards strangers (Śmiełowska 1991: 57). The author is of the opinion that self-adopted stereotypes and externally ascribed stereotypes that developed in that period were also important for the character of inter-group relations in the 1990s. Meanwhile, Danuta Berlińska emphasizes the evolution of inter-group relations from strong antagonism in the first years after the war through hidden conflicts and isolationism to the stage of functional integration in the 1990s (Berlińska 1998: 17). Thus, the aforementioned research indicates that with respect to the post-war period, it is difficult to refer to a regional community characterized by what Robert Putnam referred to as “bridging social capital” – Opole Silesia was divided among groups holding bonding social capital. Additionally, in confrontation with the hostile apparatus of the communist state, the native Silesian population showed alienation and distrust of the official state institutions (Jacher 1994). Nevertheless, it should be reiterated that with the passage of time, all parties managed to work out the methods of cooperation and the institutionalization of inter-group conflicts.

Research focused on the present situation, i.e. the period after 1989, includes various, sometimes opposing, concepts. Below we present a review of the most important conclusions from this research, highlighting relations between multiculturalism and phenomena corresponding to the quality of governance.

According to Robert Rauziński (2007), there is a relationship between the level of education and the share of the non-Polish population in the communes of the Opolskie province: the higher the level of ethnic diversity, the smaller the number of people with secondary and higher education. These differences in education are caused by the migration of persons holding two citizenships to work in Germany. As Romuald Jończy and Diana Rokita-Poskart stated (2013a), a high percentage of the population migrating abroad (especially to Germany) in search of employment, which is characteristic of the multicultural communes in the Opolskie province, causes lower income tax inflows and, consequently, a worse financial position of the local governments. On the contrary, according to the research conducted by Romuald Jończy and Katarzyna Łukaniszyn-Domaniewska (2014), the high percentage of the population emigrating abroad had a positive impact on the economic situation of the inhabitants of the region because of the transfer of funds and the stimulation of demand for local goods and services, particularly in the sub-region of Opole (but the authors indicate also the negative fiscal effects of migration, with respect to both income tax and VAT). This impact was visible especially in the 1990s, during the period of the transformational shock, which was being neutralized in the region by means of earnings coming from definitive or circular migration. The researchers also draw attention to the negative influence of emigration on local social capital – it ←23 | 24→caused, among other things, the weakening of local ties and initiatives, the dismantling of the institutional and transport infrastructure (e.g. the liquidation of crèches, kindergartens, schools, and public transport connections).

According to Maria Szmeja, in Opole Silesia, the Silesian population is dominated politically and culturally by the Polish population, which results first of all in Silesians’ distancing themselves from the Polish majority. Thus, the region’s multiculturalism is not perceived by this author as an added value and an element strengthening the quality of social life (Szmeja 2000; 2017). Marek Mazurkiewicz noticed also (2015; 2017a), that the communes of the Opolskie province inhabited by the German minority are characterized by a lower level of social capital. Meanwhile, the results of the research conducted by Wojciech Opioła (2019) indicate that it is not possible to ascertain definitively that the level of the communes’ ethnic diversity influences the level of their inhabitants’ social capital and that, in some respects, the latter is higher in the multicultural communes.

According to Brygida Solga, the migrations of the province’s inhabitants abroad – the region’s distinctive feature against the background of the other parts of Poland – caused the development of a strong network of migration-related connections. The network became large enough to exert impact on local and regional development, resulting in the formation of a “circular society”. Such a type of a social structure results in a relatively high level of economic capital, but, unfortunately, also in social disintegration (e.g. broken families; Solga 2002). On the other hand, according to Teresa Sołdra-Gwiżdż (1997), extensive and long-lasting activities undertaken by the region’s various institutions (e.g. schools, cultural institutions, local authorities) with the aim of developing a joint regional identity in the Opolskie province (by way of autochthonizing the immigrant population and Polonizing the Silesian population) did not result in the development of inhabitants’ strong ties with the region.

According to the research conducted by Danuta Berlińska (1998; 1999), at the beginning of the 1990s the mobilization and political emancipation of Silesians were defined in terms of belonging to the German national community, and the reconstruction of German national identity in the region was accompanied by antagonisms with the Polish population (e.g. conflicts about monuments). The Silesian population also had lower educational aspirations because the possibility of working in Germany made people give up pursuing further stages of formal education. Thus, connections with the German state and culture weakened social capital throughout the province. But the period of the fight for retaining the separate Opolskie province in 1998 was also a catalyst for province-wide integration crossing the national barriers and the strengthening of inhabitants’ identification ←24 | 25→with the region. This process was accompanied by the increasing awareness of the political elites that the region’s national diversity required a system aimed at reconciling opposing interests, a dialogue-oriented attitude, and cooperation skills. Furthermore, the results of another study conducted by the author in 1999 indicated that the attitudes of the province’s inhabitants to ethnic diversity were evolving towards cooperation across divides and tolerance of cultural differences (Berlińska 2004).

3 The concept and the main research stages

In the literature on the subject, the negative influence of ethnic diversity on the quality of governance is emphasized and a new dilemma of liberalism is indicated. There are several theoretical approaches explaining the negative influence of ethnic diversity on the social foundations of democracy. In the light of the psychological theories of prejudices, ethnic divisions lead to inter-ethnic mistrust and intra-ethnic favoritism, and consequently to tensions, conflicts and an absence of readiness to cooperate. The network theory implies that social relations in ethnically divided societies are organized along ethnic lines, which weakens the potential mechanisms of social control and extra-group civic mobilization. Public choice theorists claim that ethnic diversity strengthens the diversity of preferences and aspirations of particular groups, which is the source of antagonisms. Cultural theories point out the absence of a common language and commonly shared meanings as the source of a lack of social coherence understood as a low level of general trust and civic activity. Simultaneously, the theoretical approaches are challenged by the supporters of the psychological contact theory which proves that everyday contacts with representatives of a different culture lead to overcoming prejudices and stereotypes, and consequently to expansion of trust-based ties (Ibidem; Putnam 2007). Avoiding theoretical generalizations and unequivocal conclusions, we can assume the existence of empirical relations between phenomena described by means of such categories as ethnic diversity and the quality of governance. For the purposes of this research project, we define the presented notions as follows:

ethnic diversity (an independent variable) – being aware of the multiplicity of contexts in which the term is used, we understand it as the existence, in the same social space, of two or more social groups with different ethnic or national self-identification and different cultural characteristics. For the purposes of quantitative and qualitative analyses, we will operationalize ethnic diversity by means of two dimensions which will be used to construct a so-called fractionalization index: the number of ethnic groups in a ←25 | 26→community and the proportions of the population of particular groups (cf. Alesina et al. 2003; Putnam 2007).

quality of governance (a dependent variable) is understood in accordance with the concept of so-called good governance, which is a normative point of reference for an assessment of the quality of governance. The quality of governance depends on a degree to which analysed entities meet the criteria of good governance. According to the definition provided by Transparency International, good governance is “participatory, transparent, effective and efficient, responsive, inclusive governance, following the rule of law and assuring that corruption is minimized” (Transparency International 2009).

The two terms and the presented new liberal dilemma and its criticism determine the direction of the research on the Opolskie province communes, and the main hypothesis is actually in provocative contradiction with the dilemma, since according to it, the quality of governance is higher in ethnically diversified communes. An a priori explanation of the adopted hypothesis can be a relatively long history of coexistence of ethnically diversified communities in the region under analysis, which is one of the factors strengthening social capital, and consequently also the local community, a low level of excluding the minority from the distribution of public services, participation of all ethnic groups in governing the commune, etc. (cf. Kumlin and Rothstein 2010; Putnam 2007). It should also be stressed that the aforementioned concept of the new liberal dilemma refers mainly to the discrimination of immigrant minority groups in their access to public goods in new multicultural communities. In the case of the Opolskie province, the situation is different: several years after WWII post-war immigrants (the displaced people and settlers of Polish origin) became the dominant population in Opole Silesia, and the native population underwent political and cultural discrimination (Berlińska 1998; 1999; Lis 1993; Szmeja 2000).

The research was conducted in the Opolskie province in the years 2017–2018. The starting point was to use statistical data from the census to analyze national and ethnic diversity in the Opolskie province communes. The communes were the basic units of analysis. As for the assessment of good governance in the communes, it was based on the operationalization of the rules of good governance selected on the basis of an analysis of international standards (of such organizations as the World Bank, the European Union or the Council of Europe), and the practice of research on the quality of governance in different parts of the world (Wilkin 2008; Wilde et al. 2009; Kemp and Jimenez 2013). The next chapter presents a critical description of the operationalization of ethnic diversity and good governance, and at the end of the book there is an appendix with a detailed list of the adopted good governance indicators.

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The research was conducted on the basis of the nested analysis (Lieberman 2005; Rohlfing 2008), which is one of the conventional methods of comparative studies in political sciences. It allows the combination of a quantitative statistical analysis based on a large number of cases with a qualitative in-depth analysis of several chosen examples. The nested analysis consists in the use of quantitative data in the first stage of the research process in order to make an optimal choice of case studies for a qualitative comparative analysis. The first stage was a quantitative analysis of selected indexes in all communes of the Opolskie province (at this stage, the district towns were finally excluded) in order to measure the quality of governance in these communes. At this stage, the existing data analysis methods and the CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interview) were applied. One of the differences in the method applied by the authors in comparison with Lieberman’s postulate was the replacement of regression analysis with correlation analysis. The existing data used at the stage of measuring the quality of governance refer, depending on the index, to the years 2015–2017, and they come from such sources as the Central Statistical Office, the State Election Commission, the Regional Social Policy Centre, the Public Information Bulletin, and information from the particular communes’ websites. To complement the data, on 7 July 2017, an Internet questionnaire was sent to 71 commune and town offices of the province; its specimen is included at the end of the book (more information on the applied CAWI can also be found in the description of the openness indexes). It was used mainly to assess these aspects of the quality of governance which could not be assessed by the authors on the basis of the existing data. We eventually received replies from 66 communes, and data concerning the remaining five communes were obtained during in-depth internet explorations. As a result of the analysis of the existing data and CAWI, information necessary for the assessment of all communes of the Opolskie province was obtained based on 25 indexes of the quality of governance which were assigned to the five rules of good governance: participation, equality, effectiveness, accountability, and openness.

The next research stage was of a qualitative character and consisted in conducting case studies of four communes.

The selected communes were singled out on the basis of the criteria of ethnic diversity and the quality of governance. These are the following four cases:

an ethnically diversified commune with a low level of the quality of governance,

an ethnically diversified commune with a high level of the quality of governance,

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an ethnically homogeneous commune with a low level of the quality of governance,

an ethnically homogeneous commune with a high level of the quality of governance.

Thus four considerably different units were selected for the qualitative analysis and the keys for the selection were four extreme relations between the dependent and the independent variable distinguished at the stage of the statistical analysis. Simultaneously, because the quantitative analysis did not provide an unequivocal confirmation of the assumed hypotheses, we did not decide to make a random selection of the cases for further analysis (cf. Lieberman 2005: 437). Instead, we applied the diverse case analysis method which provides better results in such situations (Seawright and Gerring 2008).

A case study is a qualitative comparative analysis in which we want to take into consideration a long term perspective (e.g. local social and political history). In the four selected communes an individual in-depth interviews with local leaders as well as some elements of ethnographic studies are also to be included (more information concerning the methodology of case studies can be found in chapter 5). The term local leaders is to be understood as people involved in public affairs of their communes for many years, representing the social side or commune authorities. The objective of the interviews is to facilitate the local qualitative understanding of potential cause-and-effect relations between ethnic diversity and the quality of governance that are dependent upon specific historical conditions that only interviews could recount instead of mere statistical analyses.

1 In the case of persons declaring a double identification, they were classified as being of the first declared national identification.

2 The post-war population transfers took place at the former territory of the Central European countries, mostly affected current territory of Poland (former Germany) and Ukraine (former Poland). Between 1944 and 1951 in all Central Europe about 20 million of people left homes, because of forced transfers.

3 The Silesian separatism developed in the late 19th century as a regional defense against both Prussian/German as well as Polish nationalization projects.

4 And an institutional expression of these aspirations is the registration of three political parties representing the Silesians in 2018: Śląska Partia Regionalna, Ślonzoki Razem and Regionalna Mniejszość z Większością.

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II Ethnic diversity and quality of governance. Conceptualization and measurement at the commune level

Before we focus on the issue of the conceptualization and operationalization of the notions of “ethnic diversity” and “quality of governance”, it is necessary to present a general description of the specific character of the administrative level that is being surveyed and compared. This is because the legal and political status of the Polish commune and its social and demographic specificity can have an effect on the directions and possibilities of the quality of governance in the commune. Consequently, these characteristic features should be taken into consideration in the interpretation of research results.

1 Commune in the Polish political system

Since 1999 Poland has had a three-level territorial division system within which two local government segments have been shaped: the local system covering communes and districts and the regional system based on provinces. These changes of 1999 have occurred as a part of democratization process of post-Soviet Poland (which had started already in 1989), with the objectives, like: strengthening of local self-government, decentralization and deconcentration of political power (Yoder 2003).

Relations among these three segments of regional and local government are based on a combination of partnership in most cases, however antagonisms over conflicting jurisdictions happen as well. It should be noted that at present the district is regarded as the weakest local government link with a weak financial base, while the commune constitutes the center of local power (Wojciechowski et al. 2014: 19–20). According to the typology of local government systems in Eastern Europe proposed by Paweł Swianiewicz, the Polish system, together with those of Slovakia and Hungary, was classified as »champions of decentralization«. It means that local government assumes responsibility for a wide range of tasks; is characterized by a directly elected mayor (in Poland since 2002, earlier major was elected by a commune council) and a majority voting system for decision making bodies (in communes with up to 20,000 inhabitants). Additionally, local government is characterized by a considerable scope of financial autonomy, which manifests itself in the right to determine the level of local taxes, the transparent criteria for receiving transfers from the central budget, and the right to incur ←29 | 30→debt and credit without external approval of other jurisdictional levels. Among the five types of local government in Eastern Europe proposed by Swianiewicz5, the Polish system represents the highest level of decentralization, showing similarities to the so-called Northern model characteristic of the Western European democracies (Swianiewicz 2014: 303–307). Thus, a Polish commune can be justifiably regarded as an autonomous political space since, by way of cyclical and democratic elections, voters appoint decision making authorities and executive authorities are responsible for fulfilling the needs of their self-governing community. Communes also pursue autonomous financial policies and make use of symbols expressing the identity of a local community (an emblem, local feasts, monuments of nature).

Nevertheless, the specific character of this local political system comprises rules of electing authorities, making decisions, and enforcing political responsibility that are determined at the center rather than local level. It means that in communes there exist structural barriers to the possibility of shaping the principles of good governance (Antoszewski 2014: 21–22).

The position of a commune in Poland’s political system is defined in Chapter VII of the Constitution of Poland , which guarantees its political and financial autonomy. A commune constitutes a basic local government unit, has the status of a legal person, and its autonomy is protected by courts. It executes all tasks of local government which are not reserved for the competence of the other local government units, i.e. districts and provinces. Its funds comprise its own revenues as well as grants and subsidies from the central budget. A commune’s activities are subject to supervision with respect to legality by central government bodies. Such supervision is exercised by the President of the Council of Ministers and provincial governors, while financial matters are monitored by regional accounting chambers (‘Constitution’ 1997). The range of public tasks carried out by a commune and the principles of the functioning of commune authorities are determined in the Commune Government Act of 8 March 1990. The Act sets forth 20 tasks for which a commune is responsible, among which are real property management, environmental protection, water supply and sewage disposal, municipal waste management, local roads maintenance, social assistance, public education, health care, cultural development, promotional activities, cooperation with and support for local government organizations. A commune’s basic ←30 | 31→governing bodies are a commune council and a commune leader (a mayor or a president, depending on a commune’s size). A commune council is a decision making and controlling body. Since 2018 councils have been elected for a five years’ term of office (previously for a four years’ term of office). The number of councillors in a commune depends on the number of its inhabitants, with the minimum number of 15 councillors in communes with up to 20,000 inhabitants. Since 2018 also elected for a five years’ term of office, commune leaders (mayors or presidents) constitute executive bodies of communes. With respect to the performance of public tasks, they are controlled by commune councils. The commune leader implements resolutions passed by the commune council, manages the commune’s affairs on an ongoing basis, and represents the commune externally. The commune leader performs their tasks through the commune office and is simultaneously the head of this office.

The above description is just a general and simplified outline of the position, structure, and competences of commune authorities. An analysis of governance at the commune level should also take into consideration the sociological and demographic specificity of communes in Poland, in particular the fact of their considerable diversity. Polish communes are divided into rural, urban-rural, and urban. According to the data for 2016, there were 2478 communes, including 1559 rural ones, 616 urban-rural ones, and 303 urban ones. The average number of inhabitants in one commune was 15,500 (Kaczmarek 2016: 72–74). In comparison to the average size of communes in the other EU Member States, which was 5,600 people in 2010, communes in Poland are medium-sized units (Kachniarz, Babczuk 2014: 2). It should be noted, however, that a considerable number of them are small rural communes with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. Because of demographic processes, the number of such communes is increasing: in 1992 there were 540 communes with up to 5,000 inhabitants, while in 2013 their number already rose to 618 (Swianiewicz 2014a: 10). It has been argued that the local government reform, particularly the commune government reform of 1990, is one of the most successful aspects of the Polish transformation. Public opinion surveys indicate that local government authorities continuously enjoy a high level of trust exceeding 50 %, which is much higher than the result achieved by the central government (Trutkowski 2016: 13–18; Swianiewicz 2017: 1).

Before 1998 local government elections had been regarded as much less important as parliamentary or presidential elections. However, what has been observed since 2008 is a continual growth in the assessments of the importance of local government (and all other) elections, with local government elections regarded as more significant that parliamentary or presidential ones since 2012 (Gendźwiłł, Żerkowska-Balas 2018: 5). Nevertheless, the local government ←31 | 32→election turnout in the years 2006–2014 was a little bit lower than in the parliamentary elections held in that period, which was the effect of a relatively low turnout in large cities. There is a clear correlation between the size of a commune and an election turnout: the smaller the commune, the higher the turnout in local government elections (Flis 2018: 3).

Local government elections, in which voters elect their representatives to commune, district and provincial authorities, are dominated by choices made at the level of individual communes. According to the data for 2014, 78 % of Poles were of the opinion that the election of commune authorities was the most important decision made during local government elections (Gendźwiłł, Żerkowska-Balas 2018: 9). Local government at the commune level is the closest to Poles, but high opinions of its importance result also from the scope of its competencies and the amount of public funds remaining at its disposal. In 2016 the expenditures of commune governments constituted 85 % of all local government expenditures. The research conducted in 2018 shows that 60 % of Poles are of the opinion that they influence matters in their own communes, while only 40 % believe that they have any impact on matters at the national level (Gendźwiłł, Żerkowska-Balas ←32 | 33→2018: 9). As it has been noted above, the size of a commune is also of some significance. Small Polish communes are characterized by more interest in local politics, better knowledge of the functioning of local government authorities, and a higher level of trust in such authorities (Swianiewicz 2010: 12–16). Politics at the commune level is also characterized by low party dependency, with the lowest dependency in the smallest communes. The data for local government elections in the years 2006 and 2010 indicate that the highest level of independence of party affiliation occurred in communes with from 10,000 to 20,000 inhabitants (communes with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants were in the second place). In such communes, candidates put forward by non-party committees won 81.5 % (2006) and 80 % (2010) votes, respectively. As far as commune leaders and mayors characterized by the so-called double non-partyism (i.e. those not being members of any party and simultaneously elected from non-party committees) are concerned, they constituted 73 % (2006) and 71 % (2010) of representatives elected in such communes (Gendźwiłł, Żółtak 2012: 108–109).

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Finishing this description of the Polish local government at the commune level, we should mention the main problems it has been coping with since its establishment 25 years ago. They include excessive encumbrances resulting from the execution of public tasks in the conditions of the lack of funds necessary for it, as the subsequent extensions of the list of public tasks have not been accompanied by the strengthening of communes’ financial positions. Commune authorities are also burdened by the central government with delegated tasks without being provided with sufficient funds or sovereign competencies, which reduces local government units to the role of the passive executors of the central government’s policies. Another issue is defective laws passed at the central government level which fail to take into consideration local conditions and excessive regulatory burden preventing local governments from making and implementing decisions effectively. There is also a visible lack of consistency in the national development policy, for example in the area of regional development strategies or the central government’s readiness for trust-based cooperation with local government associations. The weaknesses of the strategic approach concern also commune authorities as many communes have failed to adopt a local development strategy and many of the adopted strategies do not result from dialogues and cooperation with local communities. There are also many doubts concerning the structure of the local government system. For example, its division into very many small units raises questions about the possibility of the effective and efficient provision of public services. The existence of three government levels whose tasks sometimes tend to overlap results in conflicts about the ranges of competencies, for example with respect to road maintenance. There is also a lack of cooperation among communes which if solved could lead to the strengthening of their potential. There occur also problems with the implementation of particular public policies, in particular those related to education and regional planning for which local governments are responsible, although their competencies in these areas are restricted by the central government administration and the national legislation. Some local governments are also fraught with internal conflicts between the council and the executive body or within the council itself. Such conflicts may lead to deliberation and greater representative policy or compromises yet as well may hinder effective governance and exert a negative impact on the perception of local government activities by local communities. The additional problems that communes have to deal with are a weakness of the local civil society and many people’s ignorance of the role of democratic participatory procedures introduced on matters important for the local community (Trutkowski 2016: 19–39).

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2 Ethnic diversity

In our research, ethnic diversity is an independent variable. Although in many researches this category is regarded as a primary concept, it seems justifiable to ask how ethnic diversity should be defined, especially at the operational level, and what its effects are in different situations. We start with the assumption that ethnic diversity is difficult to perceive as a state instead of as a moving target due to, among other things, the dynamics of migration, changes in legal regulations, or changes of ethnic and cultural self-identifications. Therefore, it is necessary to pose questions concerning both the manner of measuring diversity and the method of identifying “fractions” within an internally diversified community. Additional difficulties are caused by the fact that the category of ethnicity does not have one generally accepted scientific definition.

Ethnic diversity is understood as “the acknowledged co-occurrence, in the same space (or in the immediate proximity without a clear delimitation, or in the situation of aspiring to occupy the same space), of two or more social groups with relatively different cultural features” (Golka 2010: 64–65). The fragment quoted above is a part of the definition of multiculturalism put forward by Marian Golka. The very category of multiculturalism in the Polish scientific discourse is exceptionally broad-ranging and functions in social sciences with at least the following four meanings: (1) a factual state of ethnic diversity in a given space6, (2) a policy aimed at the institutionalization of ethnic diversity, (3) a political program promoting multiculturalism as a desired feature of modern democratic societies, (4) a marketing strategy referring to the promotion of the folklore of minorities as a value increasing the tourist attractiveness of ethnically diversified areas (cf. Dolińska 2016).

In this research, the authors are interested in not only the fact of the occurrence of ethnically diversified local communities but also measurement of the degree of such diversity. Consequently, analyzing the communities inhabiting the Opolskie province, we should pose and answer the following questions:

How many culturally/ethnically diversified groups should be distinguished?

What data should constitute a basis for recognizing a given person as a member of an ethnic group?

What data should constitute a basis for calculating the ratios of the members of every group?

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How should dynamic changes taking place in the ethnic groups be taken into consideration?

Should the cultural distance among the ethnic groups be taken into consideration? If so, in what way?

These questions result from adopting the diversity measurement method used generally in sciences and they also refer to the debate on methodological dilemmas related to various methods of measurement. An examination of ethnic and ethnolinguistic fractionalization is the most commonly used method of measuring ethnic diversity (Alesina et al. 2003, Fearon 2003, Posner 2004). This method takes into consideration the number of ethnic groups and, to some extent, the ratios among the numbers of the members of every group in the population, but it disregards the cultural distance (or differences in income) separating particular groups and the consequent possibility of social polarization. The polarization index (Chakravarty and Maharaj 2011; Esteban and Ray 1994; Montalvo and Reynal-Querol 2002; 2005) is an attempt to address this issue. It was developed mainly as a means of measuring the probability of the occurrence of conflicts and civil wars in ethnically diversified societies. Thus, for our purposes, we have adopted the ethnic fractionalization index as a basis for the assessment of ethnic diversity. This measurement method is explained in more detail in the further part of the chapter.

The number of groups

The research conducted on the population of the inhabitants of the Opolskie province is characterized by a relatively high degree of diversification with respect to the number of culturally different groups identified for the research purposes. Both the number and character of these groups were changing in parallel to changes in the dynamics of relocation processes, migration, demographic changes, as well as changes in self-identification. Before World War II the basic criterion of dividing the population was language: people spoke either Polish or German. After the war, four groups were usually distinguished: the so-called Polish native population, Germans, people displaced from the territories of the Soviet Union (the former territories of the second Republic of Poland), and settlers from Poland (see Map 3 in chapter 3). After 1989, in consequence of the “emergence” and institutionalization of the German minority, the population was divided culturally and ethnically into Poles and Germans, and in the subsequent years into Poles, Germans, and Silesians (cf. e.g. Berlińska 1999; Kowalski 1972; Kwiatek 2018; Rauziński 1982; 1986; 1998; Szmeja 1997; 2000). The detailed information on this division is presented in Tab. 1.

Tab. 1: The cultural and ethnic diversity of the Opolskie province7 in the years 1948–1993: the number of inhabitants, nomenclature, data sources

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For the research purposes, we decided to distinguish the following three groups: Poles, Germans, and Silesians. This choice reflects the best the current demographic position of the province and the numerical strength of these groups is the easiest to establish8.

A group differentiation basis

Either objective or subjective data may be used as a basis for differentiating ethnic, cultural or national groups. The former data include the legal status, i.e. citizenship, recognition as a member of a minority ethnic or national group, or the language used by a given person at home. The latter data comprise ethnic or national self-identification expressed in a census. In the case under analysis, we decided to rely on subjective data. There were a few reasons for this decision. First of all, the decisive majority of the inhabitants of the Opolskie province are Polish ←38 | 39→citizens; there is also a certain group of people with two citizenships, Polish and German. This fact ruled out using citizenship as a measure of group differentiation. Secondly, we aimed to distinguish three groups: Poles, Germans, and Silesians. It should be noted that, in the light of Polish regulations concerning national minorities and regional languages, Silesians are not recognized as a separate group. Therefore, there was no possibility of using data concerning officially recognized ethnic, national, and regional minorities. It turned out that the most adequate measure was the subjective national self-identification expressed in a census. Determining the degree of ethnic diversity, we first took into consideration the censuses carried out in 2002 and 2011. However, during the preliminary data analysis it turned out that in 2011 not all census participants had been asked openly and directly about their nationality. Therefore, the data from the 2011 census are to some extent of an approximate character (cf. Barwiński 2014). Consequently, it was the data collected in the 2002 census that constituted the basic source of information on minorities.

Group size ratios

The distribution of the sizes of the groups in the population is a significant measure of the degree of ethnic diversity. According to the adopted EFI index, a commune inhabited by three separate groups with each of them comprising 1/3 of the total members of the population is more ethnically diversified than a commune inhabited by ten groups with one dominant majority group (90 % of the population) and the remaining nine ethnic groups comprising 10 % of the members of the population. This is a hypothetical example which did not occur in the communes under examination. Nevertheless, the information on the numbers of the members of the particular groups was important in the light of the province’s demography. The province includes communes where Poles constitute the majority of inhabitants (over 95 %) and the minority is a socially and culturally insignificant group, as well as communes with less than 50 % of Polish inhabitants. At the same time, all studied communes were inhabited by the same ethnic groups: Poles, Germans, and Silesians (some larger towns are inhabited by the Romany minority; however, most of them are district towns, which were not included in the research, and the number of Romany people is statistically irrelevant). The measurement of the ratios and the interest in including Silesians in the research as a separate important group was an additional factor determining the adoption of census-based self-identification as a measure of the groups’ size.

For verification purposes, we examined the correlation between ethnolinguistic diversity and ethnic diversity (on the basis of the 2002 census data) in ←39 | 40→people declaring German nationality and people declaring the use of the German language in the household environment. At 0.98, this is a very strong correlation. Unfortunately, because of the lack of data at the commune level on the number of people using the Silesian language at home, a comparable analysis could not be carried out for the Silesian minority. The lack of such data was also one of the reasons for not using ethnolinguistic diversity as a measure.

Dynamics of changes

Ethnic diversity is subject to change over time. This is influenced by such factors as migration, reproductiveness and mortality (as well as reproduction strategies, which may be specific with respect to ethnic affiliation), and also the process of developing collective identities. As our research was an analysis of the situation at a particular point in time (most of the research was conducted in 2018 and was based on the data for the period 2015–2017), we were able to disregard the impact of changes in the social, demographic, and cultural spheres.

Nevertheless, the dynamics of changes in the ethnic structure was important for us in one aspect, namely the temporal distance between the data on ethnic diversity used in the research (the year 2002) and the time of conducting the research. The distance of 15 years is a period that needs to be taken into consideration, at least in order to make stipulations which may to some degree influence the explanation of data obtained at the further stages of the research. We identified three processes that had been taking place in the recent years and had had the potential to influence the ethnic structure of the communes in the Opolskie province:

Poland’s accession to the European Union and consequently the Schengen area, which had a considerable impact on the character of economic migration in the region. Before 2004 it had been Germans and Silesians who had acquired German citizenship (it had been possible since 1993) that were able to move freely and look for employment in the countries of the European Union. Therefore, there had been clear differences between Silesians and Germans on the one side and Poles on the other side with respect to employment in Poland and abroad. What was observed after 2004 was both an increase in the number of people of Polish nationality taking up employment abroad and a decrease in the number of people with two citizenships working outside Poland. More and more people with two citizenships managed to find jobs in their home country (Jończy, Rokita-Poskart 2013b; 2014).

a decrease in the number of people of German nationality resulting first of all from the more regressive age pyramid in that ethnic group. This observation ←40 | 41→was based on a comparison of self-identification declarations made in the censuses in 2002 and 2011 as well as changes in the number of members of the Social and Cultural Association of Germans in Opole Silesia. According to the census, in the year 2002 104,399 people living in the Opolskie province declared to be of German nationality, while in the year 2011 this number fell to 78,5959. In the case of the Social and Cultural Association of Germans, the number of its members decreased from 36,170 in 2013 to 29,464 in 201710.

an increase in the number of people of Silesian nationality resulting from the formation of a new identity. The first decade of the 21st century witnessed a dynamic increase in the separate regional (or national) awareness of Silesians, which was reflected, among other things, in the conducted censuses. While in 2002 Silesian nationality was declared by 24,000 inhabitants of the Opolskie province, in 2011 this number rose to 105,00011.

Cultural distance

The last aspect of ethnic diversity that needs to be taken into consideration is cultural distance. Cultural distance refers to differences in values, behaviors, and systems of symbols which can be analyzed in a few dimensions. The most complete analysis of the dimensions of national cultures was carried out by Geert Hofstede within the scope of a couple of research projects executed since the 1960s (Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov 2011). Hofstede (in the subsequent years together with associates) distinguished six dimensions of cultural differences (power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation, indulgence) and, equally importantly, quantified a value of each of the dimensions for a few dozen national cultures. The academic community is continuing the discussion whether ethnic diversity is the most adequate indicator (independent variable) in comparative studies. Some researchers, e.g. James Fearon (2003), Jose Montalvo and Marta Reynal-Querol (2002; 2005) are of the opinion that differences, for example, in the quality of life, well-being, or ←41 | 42→the level of democracy are explained better by ethnic polarization than by diversity itself. In other words, what is of key importance is polarization among separate groups inhabiting the same area rather than the number of minorities and their status. This issue is elaborated in more detail in chapter one.

In our research, we distinguish the following three groups: Poles, Germans, and Silesians. Simultaneously since there are no communities participating in the research where it would be possible to distinguish another fourth group numerous enough to influence the research results. Since all three groups are present in each of the examined communes and since the communes have different group size ratios, we decided to disregard cultural distance because, concerning the same groups, it is the same in each commune.

The other doubts deserving consideration are the following: To what extent are Silesians culturally different from Germans? Taking into consideration the history of immigration to Silesia, should the group of Poles be regarded as culturally homogeneous? As far as the first doubt is concerned, we did not ascertain any significant correlations between the Silesian and German populations. What is more, during the 2011 census it was observed that in the case of declaring a double national identity, the number of people declaring the possession of the joint Silesian and Polish identity was over ten times larger than those declaring the joint Silesian and German identity12. Simultaneously, the clear and mass motivation to express self-identification with Silesian nationality does not allow the researcher to regard the Silesian population as culturally identical with the Polish population. As far as the other doubt is concerned, it was concluded that the period of 70 years since the largest movements of people in Opole Silesia resulted in a situation where the differences between people displaced from the East and settlers from central Poland were no longer of any great importance.

Method of measurement

Taking into consideration the aforementioned reservations, we adopted the ethnic fractionalization index as an ethnic diversity index (EFI; Alesina et al. 2003). The ethnic fractionalization index is a measure of both the number of ethnic groups and the ratios of their sizes. It is calculated according to the following formula:


←42 | 43→

where a, b, c…n, is the percentage share of each ethnic group in the population of every commune (expressed as a fraction of unity). For example, in the commune X where the population of group a would be 45 %, the population of group b – 35 %, and the population of group c – 20 %, the ethnic fractionalization index would be calculated as follows:


The ethnic fractionalization index can range in value from 0 to 1, where 0 signifies an ethnically homogeneous population (all members of the population belong to one ethnic group), and 1 stands for a perfectly diversified population (every member of the population belongs to a different ethnic group).

Tab. 2 presents EFI values for all communes in the Opolskie province. The data constituting the basis for the calculation of the index come first of all from the census carried out in 2002. The number of the members of the Silesian minority was estimated by comparing nationality declarations made in the years 2002 and 2011 at the level of districts.

←43 | 44→

Tab. 2: Ethnic fractionalization in the communes of the Opolskie province13

←44 | 45→

←45 |

3 Quality of governance

As was noticed in the introduction, we deal with the situation in which the discourse on good governance is dominated by thinking in general state categories, while methodological and axiological considerations call for a greater focus on the local level. Therefore, in this part of the book, the concept of good governance is transferred to the level of the Polish commune, which will be followed by the conceptualization and operationalization of the criteria of good governance used in this study. We will first present a general outline of the basic sources for the concept of good governance, including the most important principles/criteria (we use the notions of the principles or criteria of good governance interchangeably) making it possible to determine when governance is good. We will also distinguish the main directions in the research on good governance at the local level. As it has already been mentioned, good governance is first of all the subject of research focused on the national scale, but it does not mean that it has not been studied at the local level. International experiences in this area were synthesized in “A Practical Guide to Measuring Governance at the Local Level” issued by the Oslo Governance Centre at the United Nations Development Programme. It contains a review of 22 initiatives/tools used to measure the quality of local governance in various parts of the world (Wilde et al. 2009). As far as Polish experiences in researching good governance at the commune level are concerned, one of few examples of a comprehensive application of this concept is the project entitled Good Governance in the Micro Scale – an Innovative System for the Analysis of Public Tasks Executed by Small Communes, whose result was two books (Lisowska, Kobielska 2013; Lisowska, Kobielska 2014). On the basis of international standards and previous research experiences, the authors will select the good governance principles that were applied in the presented research.

←46 | 47→

A definition of good governance requires that first the very category of governance be referred to. In his critical analysis of the notion of governance, Claus Offe indicates that “the contemporary proliferation of this term stands in sharp contrast to its informative content; to say governance does not mean to express a lot because of the term’s ambiguity” (Offe 2016: 342). Offe is of the opinion that the category of governance belongs to so-called empty signifiers and its popularity results from normative demands hidden in it and reconciling the issue of the state’s intervention and efficiency with the need for social autonomy (Ibidem: 344). Taking into consideration these comments, we should, however, depict the most characteristic features of this notion, and hence the way in which it is understood by the authors, because the objective scope of the assessment of the quality of governance in the communes of the Opolskie province should be interpreted on this basis.

According to Francis Fukuyama, governance is “the government’s ability to create and enforce rules and to provide services, irrespective of whether the government is democratic or not” (Fukuyama 2013: 3). In Fukuyama’s opinion, governance concerns the state’s executive apparatus and its ability to implement efficiently priorities determined outside this apparatus, i.e. by politicians, therefore, also “an authoritarian regime can be governed well” (Ibidem: 4). A broader definition of governance is provided by the World Bank, which defines governance as “traditions and institutions by means of which power is exercised in the state” (Kaufman et al. 2010: 4). Next, World Bank researchers distinguish the following three aspects of governance (Ibidem):

a) processes within which governments are elected, supervised, and replaced,

b) a government’s ability to formulate and implement reasonable policies effectively,

c) citizens’ and the state’s respect for institutions responsible for the regulation of social and economic interactions.

Thus, governance concerns processes and rules through which power is exercised as well as the results of the exercise of power. Already mentioned above, Offe writes that the notion of governance “is used in order to grasp, on the one hand, institutions (…), and on the other – the process (of steering) taking place within such institutions” (Offe 2016: 337). However, if we take a close look at the third component of governance distinguished by the World Bank, what we can also see there is a place for citizens as participants of governance. Bob Jessop emphasizes that the growing popularity of this term is connected with the necessity to distinguish between co-management and governance – the former would refer to various methods of governance, while the latter to a government and its ←47 | 48→institutions equipped with the possibility to govern. The need for such a distinction is connected with the previous paradigms’ inability to explain the changing organization and distribution of power – the traditional dichotomies such as market vs. hierarchy in the economy or private vs. public in politics appear to be simplifications which do not fit contemporary reality (Jessop 2016: 13).

In this context, it should be noted that the translation of the English notion of governance in the Polish academic discourse often functions as co-governing or co-management because the word governance does not refer only to the state and its institutions, being in fact a negation of the Weberian tradition of thinking about the role of the state (Hausner, Mazur 2016: 354). The concept of governance understood as co-governing assumes that the state is only one of the many subjects of governance oriented towards acting jointly with other centers of power possessing resources ensuring subjectivity; additionally, their subjectivity is accepted by the state apparatus and included in the process of co-management. Thus, the state functions in the conditions of the decentralization of power, and its competencies are limited for the benefit of networks of interests existing at various levels of social organization and bottom-up initiatives (Hausner, Mazur 2016: 354–355). Therefore, the notion of governance is of a relational and processual character because it takes into consideration the role of all entities which are the most important in a given context and potentially involved in the process of making decisions about public matters as well interactions among them. The essence of this understanding of governance is conveyed in the definition proposed by Transparency International according to which governance goes “beyond the traditional notion of government and focuses on relations among political leaders, public institutions, and citizens as well as processes through which they make and implement decisions” (Transparency International 2009: 22). Governance understood in this way means that the objects of governance quality assessments at the commune level are not only formalized governing bodies but also other entities which could play the co-governing role in the local setting. Applying the concept of governance to communes, Sigmund Barczyk writes that “local government, as a sovereign constitutional body, factually takes advantage of particular institutional attributes in matters of key importance for the functioning and development of communes, but it simultaneously seeks an arrangement of joint decision making relations with other partners of the commune game that would be the most advantageous for communes” (Barczyk 2010: 160). Thus, a general assessment concerns the condition of a whole local community consisting of many more or less institutionalized actors. Additionally, official governing bodies play obviously a key role as the administrators of important public resources. This scope of assessment is reflected in the principles and indicators of ←48 | 49→the quality of governance selected for the purposes of this study many of which consist in assessing the condition of a local community rather than the condition of local political institutions. Obviously, between these two dimensions there exist interactions and relationships which the authors attempt to present in more detail in the descriptions of the particular indicators. At this point, the authors want only to emphasize that the final governance quality assessment to be scored by the particular communes on the basis of the measurement methodology proposed here should be interpreted with respect to the comments above.

Measuring the quality of governance requires an answer to the fundamental question, namely: When can governance be referred to as good? Contrary to the stand taken by Fukuyama, a governance quality assessment is rooted in the axiology of the Western democracies, which formulates objectives to be pursued by those who govern (Wilkin 2013: 32–34). It is possible to distinguish international and national sources of criteria of good governance which constitute a normative point of reference for the assessment of the quality of governance in concrete political units. Tab. 3 presents four such sources. It should be kept in mind that they are just a few of many examples, although more representative ones14. A comparison of these sources indicates similarities with respect to the criteria of good governance15 – the principles of accountability, efficiency, participation, or openness belong to the repertoire of good governance functioning in the global discourse on the quality

Tab. 3: Selected sources of the principles of good governance

of governance16. Among the standards above, what is a source of particular importance because of its dedication to the local level is The Strategy for ←49 | 50→Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level adopted by the Council of Europe, which, according to its fragment, is also based on the experiences of other international organizations (‘Strategy’ 2007). This strategy includes twelve principles of good governance at the local level:

1. Fair elections, representation and participation in order to provide all citizens with opportunities to express their opinions on local public matters.

2. Responsiveness in order to ensure that local authorities address citizens’ legal expectations and needs.

3. Efficiency and effectiveness in order to ensure the achievement of formulated objectives based on the best possible use of resources.

4. Openness and transparency in order to ensure public access and information and facilitate addressing and dealing with local public matters.

5. The rule of law in order to ensure fairness, impartiality, and predictability.

6. Ethical behavior in order to ensure the priority of public interests over private ones.

7. Competencies and talents in order to ensure the proper fulfilment of duties by local officers and representatives.

←50 | 51→

8. Innovation and openness to change in order to ensure the advantageous use of new solutions and good practices.

9. Sustainable development and long term orientation in order to take into consideration the interests of future generations.

10. Prudent financial management in order to ensure the sagacious and productive use of public funds.

11. Human rights, cultural diversity, and social cohesion in order to ensure that all citizens can enjoy safety and respect and that nobody is discriminated against or excluded.

12. Accountability in order to ensure that local officers and representatives assume responsibility and may be brought to justice for their actions.

The set of principles proposed by the Council of Europe shows the multidimensional character and complexity of the assessment of local politics, but also a wide range of possible directions of research on its quality. This is reflected in international research experiences. In A Practical Guide to Measuring Governance at the Local Level mentioned above, we can read that research on the quality of local governance focuses the most often on the following four topics (Wilde et al. 2009: 8):

1. decentralization – what is studied in this case is the degree and forms of decentralization (e.g. devolution, delegation), taking into consideration the fiscal, administrative and political dimensions of decentralization, as well as the national decentralization environment, i.e. institutions, acts of parliament, and policies at the central level.

2. local governance – in this case, the subject matter of research is the basic dimensions and determinants of local governance such as a local political system (the rule of law, elections, civil liberties, access to information, the strength of the civil society), elected institutions and their functioning (public procurement, financial policy, corruption), social issues (gender equality, environmental protection, ensuring tax revenues), and a business environment.

3. local democracy – in this case, research focuses on the procedure of electing local authorities, the role of civic organizations, and the influence of minority and opposition groups on the process of governance; the subject matter of analysis is formal mechanisms guaranteeing the transparency, representativeness, and accountability of authorities, as well as the practical functioning of these mechanisms from the point of view of citizens.

4. local authorities and their achievements – in this case, researchers concentrate on the results of local politics expressed in the quality of goods and services provided to the self-governing community; the subject matter of analysis ←51 | 52→is the quality of services in one or more selected sectors of local authorities’ activities (such research is often accompanied by an analysis of financial, institutional, and human resources aimed at assessing local authorities’ abilities to carry out particular programs and tasks).

Tab. 4 presents examples of tools developed to assess the quality of governance at the local level together with their normative orientation, that is dimensions constituting the subject matter of analysis. The repertoire of evaluation criteria is very similar to the standards developed for the national level; additionally, at the local level there appears an additional dimension referred to as “equity”. A more thorough analysis of such tools shows that the dimension of “equity” is understood to a large extent as the existence of institutional solutions preventing the exclusion of certain social categories or a state of relative equality within a local community17. In view of the fact that it is a certain additional dimension which appears to be diversifying slightly the axiology of measuring the quality of governance at the local and national levels, the authors decided to choose it as one of the good governance criteria at the commune level. They also decided to use the notion of “equality” instead of the notion of “equity” since the former appears to be a category that is less encumbered axiologically.

Tab. 4: Selected tools used to measure the quality of governance at the local level

On the basis of the analyses above, the authors decided to distinguish the following five principles of good governance: equality, effectiveness, accountability, openness, and participation. Each of the principles was assigned 5 indicators allowing an assessment of the quality of governance with respect to compliance with a given principle. The indicators are of a diversified character because they are so-called focused indicators related to input, output, and processes in contrast to perception-focused indicators (Wilde et al 2009) for which no relevant data ←52 | 53→ ←53 | 54→are available. Efforts were made to ensure that the indicators met certain basic requirements indicated by Tadeusz Borys. According to Borys, the indicator of the quality of governance at the commune level should be characterized by the following features: a) it should constitute a substantive reflection of a given dimension of governance, b) it should be easy to interpret, c) it should allow the monitoring of changes in time, d) it should allow comparisons among communes, e) it has to have a referential value, f) its validity should be based on a consensus, g) it should be formulated in a manner facilitating its use in information systems, h) it should be measurable, that is based on available, documented, reliable, and updated data (Borys 2014: 64–65). A detailed description (essence, data sources, period, weaknesses) of each of the selected indicators is presented in the annex. At this point it should be noted that the selected indicators range in value from 0 to 1, therefore, the maximum number of points to be scored by a commune in the assessment of the particular principles of good governance was 25. This was the basis for creating the commune-level governance quality index consisting of five sub-indexes of the same weight (cf. Tab. 5). The subsequent paragraphs present the authors’ understanding of each of the principles and the resultant selection of indicators.

Under the notion of equality, the authors understand a degree to which groups traditionally exposed to exclusion are represented in a commune’s public life. This definition causes the need to look for the indicators of such equality to be found at the commune level. On the basis of these characteristic features, the authors selected equality indicators concerning the following four social groups exposed to the risk of exclusion: women, the elderly, the youth, the poor18. It should be noted that some of the selected equality indicators may be also regarded as participation indicators because, for example, a senior citizens council is simultaneously a participatory body. It is one of the problems related to the measurement of the particular governance quality principles resulting from the fact of substantive connections among the particular principles. For example, participation may simultaneously fulfil the role of an accountability mechanism and increase equality in a local public space. It seems that deciding about assigning a particular indicator to a given principle of good governance, the researcher has to exercise some degree of discretion.

←54 | 55→

The notion of effectiveness should be understood as the degree to which the local authorities perform their obligations to the self-governing community with respect to the fulfilment of their needs and reasonable management of the commune’s property. Let us focus on the problems related to the assessment of effectiveness. From the perspective of assessment-related procedures in local government units, effectiveness is “a relation among products, results and (especially financial) resources allocated for their achievement” (Grzywa 2008: 15). Thus, effectiveness is an economic category and its essence is achieving formulated objectives by reasonably managing available resources – effective means achieving the best possible results with the least possible expenditures. In order to ensure such effectiveness in the functioning of public administration units management processes need to be based on strategic planning, control of expenses, policies oriented towards savings, simplification of procedures, and improvement of the quality of provided services (Żołnierczyk, Szumowski 2014: 122–124). With respect to measurement, a literal treatment of effectiveness constitutes a challenge because it requires that expenditures and expected results be defined precisely. Even if such a relation can be determined, there appears a problem with allocating particular values to expenditures and especially to results as well as assessing such values with respect to the optimal utilization of available resources. While it is possible to determine a commune’s expenditures on primary education or promotional activities, it is rather difficult to assess the value of the effects of incurring such expenditures, particularly if such effects are postponed in time and are influenced by other factors. Therefore, the selected effectiveness indicators are only partly compatible with this abstract category. On the one hand, these indicators refer to the economic results of a commune’s policy concerning the acquisition of financial resources (its own revenues) and the use of such resources for development purposes (capital expenditures and fight with chronic poverty). On the other hand, two indicators refer to the functioning of a commune’s administration in terms of applied procedures aimed at increasing effectiveness and expenditures on administration.

Tab. 5: The Local Level Governance Quality Index (25 points)

←55 | 56→

Accountability should be understood as mechanisms and competences allowing the enforcement of local political decision makers’ liability for their decisions. The principle of accountability creates special difficulties with finding relevant indicators allowing its measurement as well as comparison among communes. As Mark Bovans writes, accountability is a social relation between an actor and a forum within which the actor is obliged to explain and justify their actions, the forum may ask questions and make judgements, and the actor may take the consequences of their actions. Obligations to provide explanations may have an either formal or informal character, similarly to the consequences taken by the ←56 | 57→ ←57 | 58→actor for their actions before the forum. Additionally, the very risk of the occurrence of particular consequences may be regarded as an accountability mechanism (Bovans 2006: 9). Looking for fora before which local political actors are accountable for their actions, we should first of all mention external institutions responsible for supervision over the local government system and specified in Article 171 of the constitution, that is the President of the Council of Ministers, provincial governors, regional accounting chambers, and the Sejm, which has the authority to dissolve a commune council (‘Constitution’ 1997). Supervision over the activities of local governments is also exercised by the Supreme Chamber of Control or the Central Anti-corruption Bureau19. These are external bodies exercising the controlling function, but there are also internal control mechanism such as managerial control obligatory under the Public Finances Act and the related secondary legislation (Małecka-Łyszczek 2015: 243–250). It is also possible to indicate social control that is exercised in the course of local government elections, local referenda, and local media, as well as by means of complaints and requests submitted under the Code of Administrative Proceedings.

However, from the perspective of this research, there appears a certain major problem because the existing accountability mechanisms have been designed as a part of the position of the commune and supervision over the commune within the structure of the political system and are applicable to all communes. Therefore, in order to differentiate among the communes with respect to the degree of accountability, we should compare the communes of the province with respect to the frequency of using such mechanisms in each commune. It is not only a problem of access to data, but rather a problem of their interpretation as measures of a degree of accountability. If the provincial governor or the regional accounting chamber issues a negative opinion on commune A and commune B does not receive any such opinion, does it allow us to conclude that commune A has a higher level of accountability (irregularities have been identified) than that of commune B? After all, commune B may be subject to equally strict inspections as commune A, but there are no irregularities in commune B, while they are detected in commune A. In such cases, negative opinions should be regarded rather as a measure of the legality of activities or bad financial management in commune A in comparison to commune B or possibly a ←58 | 59→measure of the effectiveness of external control institutions. But such inspections cannot be used to compare the degrees of accountability among communes as they are connected with the functioning of supra-communal mechanisms. The cases of irregularities or corruption ascertained by the Supreme Chamber of Control or the Central Anti-corruption Bureau concern a few communes only and are rather a measure of the quality of commune governance20. There is also a lack of access to data concerning managerial control, which would make it possible to compare communes on a regular basis (e.g. reports on the status of managerial control which are to be drawn up by managers of particular organizational units are rarely published in Public Information Bulletins). On the other hand, there are so few cases of dismissing a commune leader/mayor or commune/town council in the Opolskie province that no systematic qualitative comparisons are possible21. Complaints and requests submitted by commune inhabitants could constitute a source of comparable knowledge on accountability in the communes, but also in this case we face the problem of access to data and their interpretation. Not all communes answered the questionnaire, in which the authors asked, among other things, about citizens’ complaints and requests, and the Public Information Bulletin did not suffice to complement the missing information. Furthermore, the number of complaints and requests may be interpreted on the one hand as a measure of commune inhabitants’ readiness to control the authorities by means of this instrument, but on the other hand a large number of complaints and requests may be a measure of a low effectiveness of the local bureaucracy (and hence a lower quality of governance). Thus, a larger number of complaints and requests cannot be regarded as a positive phenomenon22. An election turnout could be used as one of the indicators of ←59 | 60→accountability at the commune level, but, for reasons described in the following sections, the authors decided not to use the data concerning participation in elections. Consequently, the selected indicators and their pertinence should be assessed taking into consideration the difficulties outlined above. The authors tried to identify such mechanisms and competencies that function strictly at the local level, can occur in all communes, adopting various values, and can be assessed quantitatively on the basis of reliable data.

The notion of openness should be understood as regularly publishing information on the activities of local authorities and the active cooperation of such authorities with the social/institutional environment. Openness is a quite wide-ranging category as it combines such qualities as transparency, readiness/ability of authorities to cooperate with other social life actors, and readiness/ability to undertake innovative actions (Lisowska 2014: 79–85). It seems that the central features of openness are transparency, partnership and cooperation with the social environment. Understood in this way, openness is an important supplement to and a condition for accountability because without the knowledge of authorities’ actions and the rules of their functioning ensured by transparency, it is difficult to bring them to account23. On the other hand, cooperation between authorities and the social environment results in the necessity to accept assessments given by partners, to take into consideration their needs and expectations, and to justify made decisions. Openness is also close to equality because it requires the acknowledgement of the subjectivity of various social stakeholders – to some extent, these two principles overlap as the degree to which groups exposed to social exclusion are represented in the social space is also a measure of the openness of the system of power to the interests of such groups.

The notion of participation should be understood as the degree to which a local community is involved in the local public life. Understood in this way, participation is to a considerable extent identical to the strength of the local civil society whose primary feature is the involvement of private entities in the pursuit of public objectives (Szacki 1997). Research on social participation at the ←60 | 61→local level usually focuses on various manifestations of civic activity and is used to assess the quality of the civil society – in such research, the notion of social participation is used interchangeably with the notion of civic participation or civil society (Skrzypiec 2002: 12; Pietraszko-Furmanek 2012: 62–65). Civic participation is regarded as one of the integral principles of good governance, which results from the very idea of joint governing included in the notion of governance, although it should be noted that there are studies in which participation is also regarded in the category of social capital and is then distinguished as a separate dimension interacting with the quality of governance (Łopaciuk-Gonczaryk 2013). In the presented study, an assessment of civic participation is an assessment of one of the dimensions of the quality of governance since the authors assume that the presented definition of governance obliges the researcher to assess the condition of a whole self-governing community together with its infrastructure of social and political institutions, and not just the state of the institutions of local political representation. Therefore, in their research, the authors took into consideration broadly understood civic participation, i.e. both individual and collective actions which need not be of a purely political character (e.g. voting for candidates from inhabitants’ election committees), but may be interpreted as a manifestation of a sense of responsibility for the public good and the possession of relevant resources making it possible to pursue the public good (e.g. civic competencies or the strength of a local non-governmental sector).

It should be noted that in this study, the authors did not use the data concerning the election turnout as an indicator of civic participation or accountability, although such data are often used as one of the indicators of the quality of governance as they are easily available. This results from the unique character of the Opolskie province, where the problem of election data reliability occurs because of so-called suspended migration. Romuald Jończy, one of the leading authorities in the field of research on migration in the Opolskie province, has estimated that in 2006, 25 % (approximately 80,000–85,000 people) of the Germans living in the region were people who had emigrated permanently, but were still officially registered as residing in the Opolskie province. This constitutes 8 % of the province’s population; however, if the geographical distribution of this group is taken into consideration, it becomes evident that suspended emigration is typical primarily of the communes examined in this research, that is rural communes with a high percentage of Silesian and German populations (Jończy, Łukaniszyn-Domaszewska 2014: 19–21). Therefore, the authors decided not to use the data concerning the election turnout because the possibly lower turnout in these communes may be the effect of suspended migration.

←61 | 62→

As it has been mentioned above, a detailed description of each of the indicators is included in the annex. What should be indicated at this point are general problems with which the authors had to cope while looking for governance quality indicators at the commune level. Firstly, a particular indicator may be assigned to different principles of good governance, because these principles overlap. As a result the researcher faces the problem of discretionary assigning a particular indicator to a given principle of good governance. Secondly, the indicators provide information about the current state only, while conclusions concerning the conditions and consequences of such a state (that is about the governance processes whose measurement constitutes the core of the research) are, in a sense, a theoretical speculation that would require an in-depth empirical verification at the level of each commune. Thirdly, some indicators are the basis for evaluating communes in the area which, although included in the range of communes’ own tasks, is also influenced by external influences that are rather difficult to assess. Consequently, a commune may be assessed for something over which it has a limited control. The last problem concerns data on the local reality. In Poland, a lot of quantitative data allowing comparisons among territorial units concern districts and provinces (e.g. the Local Data Bank of the Central Statistical Office)24. Therefore, the selection of the governance quality indicators at the local level is determined rather by the availability of relevant data. Thus, sometimes what is researched is not what the researcher finds interesting, but what can be researched thanks to available data. Assessing the relevance and reliability of the methodology of measuring the quality of governance proposed in this study, one should take into consideration the aforementioned problems.

5 Besides “champions of decentralization”, the other four types are considered: relatively decentralized, Balkan, high territorial consolidation, and territorial fragmentation with a high level of centralization (Swianiewicz 2014: 303–306).

6 This meaning of multiculturalism as a factual state of ethnic diversity is the closest to our definition of ethnic diversity.

7 Although the Opolskie province has been a unit of the administrative division of Poland since 1950, its boundaries were changed in every territorial organization reform. In the years 1950–1975 it included the Raciborski and Oleski districts; in the years 1975–1998 these two districts belonged to other provinces, while the 1998 reform returned the Oleski district and the communes of Praszka and Rudniki to the Opolskie province. Besides, some data sources refer to still other territorial units. The research conducted by Danuta Berlińska (1999) in 1990 covered the area of the historical region of Opole comprising also the cities of Zabrze, Bytom, and Gliwice.

8 The latest statistics indicate also a large number of Ukrainians (more than 60,000 persons, according to the data of the Provincial Labour Office). However, Ukrainian citizens (mainly construction or industrial workers and students) live first of all in district towns, which are not the subject matter of our research.

9 http://stat.gov.pl/spisy-powszechne/narodowe-spisy-powszechne/narodowy-spis-powszechny-2002/ i http://stat.gov.pl/spisy-powszechne/nsp-2011/nsp-2011-wyniki/ struktura-narodowo-etniczna-jezykowa-i-wyznaniowa-ludnosci-polski-nsp-2011,22,1.html (Accessed 21 February 2019).

10 http://skgd.pl/sprawozdania/#2017 (Accessed 21 February 2019).

11 It should be noted that such a big difference results partly also from the different method of obtaining data on nationality and the differently formulated questions and proposed answers (cf. Barwiński 2014).

12 http://stat.gov.pl/spisy-powszechne/nsp-2011/nsp-2011-wyniki/struktura-narodowo-etniczna-jezykowa-i-wyznaniowa-ludnosci-polski-nsp-2011,22,1.html (Accessed 4 March 2019).


ISBN (Book)
Open Access
Publication date
2020 (March)
local democracy Silesia civil society self-government German minority
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 238 pp., 12 fig. b/w, 21 tables.

Biographical notes

Wojciech Opioła (Author) Bartosz Czepil (Author)

Bartosz Czepil is a political scientist and sociologist, assistant professor at University of Opole, Poland. Wojciech Opioła is a political scientist, assistant professor at University of Opole, Poland and the editor-in-chief of „Pogranicze. Polish Borderlands Studies“ peer-reviewed journal.


Title: Ethnic diversity and local governance quality