published: 03.09.2012, 19:00 | updated: 03.09.2012 19:06:33
Prague - The planned property settlement between the Czech state and churches bears no risk of breaking the 1948 limit because it is based on valid restitution laws and clearly defines the period that it concerns, Prime Minister Petr Necas says in a letter to President Vaclav Klaus.
Klaus said last week he would not sign the law on the state-church property settlement unless Necas personally guarantees to him that the return of the confiscated property would not break the February 25, 1948 limit - in other words that it does not apply to cases dating back before the communist coup in Czechoslovakia.
Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) says the church restitution law would not change the position of the Czech Republic in possible new court disputes over property claims.
He says the concerns that the law might challenge the postwar arrangement are groundless. He adds that the mention of the 1947 revision of the first interwar land reform in the church restitution bill is no challenge since the effective land law already includes this mention, too.
"Property was returned to all individuals under the land law. All potential challenging of the given period might have been and was used in the past 20 years, and it was not successful," Necas pointed out.
He also notes that the church restitution bill requires that churches prove their claim by producing evidence that they owned the given property for some time between February 25, 1948 and January 1, 1990.
In 1947, the then Czechoslovak government nationalised some church property.
The Pravo daily last week recalled the critics´ fears that if the churches regained such property, noblemen, some religious orders and Germans transferred from Czechoslovakia after WW2 could challenge the then president Edvard Benes's post-war decrees stripping them of property.
Under the government bill, churches are to be returned land and real estate worth 75 billion and given 59 billion crowns in financial compensation for unreturned property during the following 30 years.
The opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) strongly oppose the bill, especially the financial compensation.
Necas answered Klaus´s open letter only after several days, one day before the opening of the parliament session that will be deciding on the bill.
The lower house of parliament will be dealing with the bill for the second time because the upper house, dominated by the left-wing opposition, vetoed it. The lower house may override the veto, but Necas´s government coalition currently does not hold a majority in it.
While a few opposition MPs may support the bill, ODS MPs voiced reservations about it. Necas said the bill is crucial for the government.
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