The head of the Helsinki Commission at the United States Congress, Senator Ben Cardin, has criticized Poland for delaying the process of dealing with the restitution of Jewish property confiscated during and after WW II.
Representative of the Obama administration, Stuart Eizenstat also expressed hope that the problem will be solved soon.
Speaking during the session of the Helsinki Commission in Washington, Senator Ben Cardin indicated Poland and Lithuania as the two countries which have done least to solve the problem.
“Successive Polish governments promised that the issue of compensation will be dealt with. None has done anything about it,” he said.
In March 2001, the Polish parliament approved a law for the restitution of private property, though the right to file a claim was limited to those with Polish citizenship as of December 31, 1999. The law was subsequently vetoed by the President of Poland. The Terezin Declaration, a nonbinding set of guiding principles aimed at faster, more open and transparent restitution of art, private and communal property taken by force or under duress during the Holocaust, was approved at the Prague Holocaust Era Assets Conference in June last year. Poland was a signature to the non-binding agreement.
Senator Cardin added he was aware that due to the relocation of borders and massive resettlements of people following the war, property restitution in Poland is a complicated issue. “Solving of the problem is difficult but not impossible” he added.
Former US Ambassador to the EU Stuart Eizenstat, the country’s delegate to the Prague Conference on the return of assets looted during World War Two also addressed the Commission, Tuesday. He said that the reprivatization law currently being prepared in Poland is defective as it does not include the restitution of properties located in Warsaw.
Poles themselves were the victims of Nazism and communism so the restitution issue is difficult, he remarked, at the same time expressing hope that the legislative work will be corrected. Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced back in 2008 that legislation which aimed to tackle the issue had been prepared but the global finance crisis meant that plans had to be shelved due to increasing public debt.
“The escalation of demands does not help in the creation of a political climate needed to pass an anti-discrimination, re-privatisation law,” declared Poland’s Foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski, commenting last year on the appeal from Jewish organizations for the return property confiscated under Nazi occupation in Poland from heirless victims during the Holocaust. (di/pg)
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Senator Cardin and Rep. Hastings at the 2009 OSCE PA Annual Session in Vilnius, Lithuania