Bill for Jewish property restitution moves to Saiema

On Wednesday, members of the Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee supported the bill for the restitution of several Jewish properties. The first reading of the bill will commence on September 24. 

MPs have ten days to come up with suggestions for the bill - and there's no doubt that there'll be some, as this topic had sparked heated debate when it was discussed before

Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica (Unity), the Parliamentary Secretary for the Foreign Ministry, said that the restitution of Jewish properties is a special case, and for the second reading in the Latvian parliament the bill text could be amended to conform with the preamble of the Latvian Constitution.

MP Rihards Kols (National Alliance) asked whether such restitution doesn't create a precedent for other organizations, like the Red Cross, to assert pretensions to other properties, while Kalniņa-Lukaševiča replied that properties have been restored to that particular organization already.

"We are talking about a special case - about the Jewish property restitution," said Kalniņa-Lukaševiča.

"These people were killed during the holocaust, but the regime denationalized the properties. That's why a succession isn't possible. This is an extraordinary context. Now it would be a good political decision to hand these properties to Jewish societies," the secretary said. 

While Jānis Dombrava (National Alliance) said that this bill should be voted down and to move them forward once it's worded more precisely.

"The question about the receiving organization remains. I see risks that [Jewish] organizations will continue to keep up the disagreements in which the state will be involved. I think it'd be right to return the properties to the organizations that have any ties to the inter-war Jewish community," said Dombrava.

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.

The Jewish diaspora has claims against a total of 270 properties. 

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