Jewish groups push for compensation for lost properties

Take note – story published 9 years and 2 months ago

Latvia’s two leading Jewish community organizations, the Council of Jewish Congregations and Communities and religious congregation ŠAMIR exchanged heated words with parliamentary deputies at the Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee over the restitution of historic properties formerly owned by Jewish groups Wednesday.

While taking part in the meeting of the Committee the Jewish community group leaders urged deputies to rule sooner and not put off further rulings not just on the five properties currently under consideration as proposed by the Foreign Ministry for restoring back to the community’s ownership, but altogether 270 separate real estate properties. A specially established fund could manage the compensation monies for them if it weren’t possible to actually restore physical ownership of so many, say community leaders.

Dmitrijs Krupņikovs of the Council of Jewish Congregations and Communities recalled that the idea was originally floated in a draft bill on restitution dating back to 2006. At the time it was greeted by a wave of sharp discussion and wound up tabled.

Krupņikovs suggested a fund would resolve the issue of the lost properties – the accumulated resources paid out as compensation for them would be held here for the development of Latvia’s Jewish culture. He added that the Council would prefer the issue be resolved in one single ruling, so that a compensation sum would replace the process of property restitution.

The sum arrived at back in 2006 when the proposal was first broached was €45 million, he recalled, but now the “property list is maybe half the value of this sum anymore.”

Still, the restitution project for five separate properties is already on the Saeima agenda, with bills already drafted and submitted for consideration.

Meanwhile, Jewish religious congregation ŠAMIR, which was founded not long before the restoration of Latvia’s independence according to Krupņikovs, said it would certainly line up for a property if a political decision was taken in favor of restitution. Krupņikovs however denied that ŠAMIR could have legitimate claim to any historic properties as such.

The ruling coalition parties had been postponing decisions on this matter for many years until Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs’ visit to the US. Since then, while Unity and the Greens and Farmers Union back the restitution proposal for the five properties, the National Alliance has maintained a more reserved position, having sacrificed a Justice Minister in a previous Cabinet (Gaidis Bērziņš) ostensibly over the issue.

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