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Jewish property restitution bill moves forward

Latvian lawmakers on Thursday passed in the second reading a bill on the restitution of five properties that used to belong to Latvian Jewish organizations before World War II, reported BNS.

Proposals for the third reading of the bill have to be submitted by November 26.

In September, the parliament voted to return a total of five properties to the Council of the Jewish Communities of Latvia. The properties are situated in the capital city Riga, Latvia's seaside town of Jurmala and Kandava in western Latvia. 

On Thursday, the parliament also passed in the first reading legislative amendments removing a ban on dispossession or pawning the land property and a building in Riga that have already been turned over to the Riga Jewish Community.

The amendments also cancel the provision that the property has to be returned to the state if the organization ceases to exist.

There were more than 90,000 Jews living in Latvia before it was occupied during World War II.

In January this year the Latvian parliament decided to start reviewing the proposal for return of five properties that used to belong to Latvia's Jewish community before World War II to the Riga Jewish Community.

Three of these properties are situated in Rīga, one in Latvia's seaside town of Jūrmala, and one in Kandava, a town in western Latvia. They are to be returned to the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities.

The ruling coalition parties had been postponing decisions on this matter for many years until Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs’ visit to the US early this year.

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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