Romania Aims to Draw Line Under Restitution Row

Prime Minister Ponta says a new law should finally resolve the prolonged dispute about property seized by the Communists after the Second World War.The centre-right government of Victor Ponta said it will seek parliament’s approval for a law compensating former owners of properties confiscated by the Communist regime after the Second World War.

“The law we have drafted aims finally to find a solution to long-delayed problem of property restitution in Romania,” Ponta said on Wednesday.

By formally “assuming responsibility” for the bill, if the law is rejected, the government will have to resign.

Romania has to adopt a new restitution law by an April 2013 deadline following a decision from the European Court for Human Rights.

The country is late with a clear, final legal framework to compensate former owners and recently came under under fire after it said the state had limited resources to fully compensate all former owners.

Thousands of former property owners have lodged complaints with the European Court. Since 1999, the court has awarded many former owners their houses back, but the Romanian authorities have routinely disregarded the verdicts.

The new law aims to help former owners recover their confiscated properties, but only where it is possible. Otherwise, the state will compensate them according to the value of their lost assets.

The government estimates it will have to pay around 9 billion euro to cover this task, with most of the payments scheduled to start from 2017. Former owners will have to wait up to 10 years to receive the cash, if the the law is adopted.

Progress on restitution in Romania has been slow and has solved only about 15 per cent of all restitution claims. Moreover, some properties have been illegally given to people who forged ownership documents or inheritance papers.

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