Poland backs property restitution reforms slammed by Israel

·2 min read

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland on Friday defended planned changes to its property restitution regulations, after Israel said the reforms are “immoral’ and will prevent Jewish claims for compensation or property seized during the Holocaust and communist times.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry said the reforms would not stop claims being made through courts.

They “do not in any way restrict the possibility of bringing civil suits to seek damages, irrespective of the plaintiff’s nationality or origin,” the ministry said.

The Israeli Embassy had charged that the changes being processed in parliament would “make it impossible" for seized Jewish property to be returned. It said they would also prevent Holocaust survivors and their heirs from seeking compensation. Poland was home to a large Jewish community for many centuries, until the Nazi German invasion in World War II.

“This immoral law will have a serious impact on the relations between our countries,” the embassy said on Twitter.

Poland's Foreign Ministry replied that these comments "are indicative of ignorance of the facts and the Polish law.”

The changes were ordered in 2015 by Poland's top Constitutional Tribunal and set a 30-year statute of limitation on challenges to administrative decisions issued in gross violation of the law. They are intended to end fraud and irregularities in property restitution in Warsaw, Krakow and other cities and locations.

In a vote Thursday night, Polish lawmakers overwhelmingly backed the changes, which still need approval from the Senate and from President Andrzej Duda before they can become law.

Before WWII Poland was home to Europe’s largest Jewish community of some 3.5 million people. Most were killed in the Holocaust under Nazi Germany's occupation and their property was confiscated. Post-war communist authorities seized the property, along with the property of non-Jewish owners in Warsaw and other cities.

A 2001 draft law foreseeing compensations for seized private property was approved in parliament but vetoed by then-president Aleksander Kwasniewski, who said it violated social equality principles and would hurt Poland’s economic development. He also said individual claims should be made through the courts.

Poland is the only European country that has not offered any kind of compensation for private property, including Jewish property, seized by the state in its recent history.

The Associated Press

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