Prague - Czech politicians accepted today a proposal by church representatives to end the work of the commission of experts negotiating about a change to church restitution, they said at a joint press conference today.
The churches did not accept any of the objections the government Social Democrats (CSSD) and ANO movement have to the law on return of property to churches, which the communists confiscated from them.
The churches said some of the politicians´ objections are based on an ideologically influenced stance on churches and that they use clearly false claims.
The churches also rejected the politicians´ assertion that the property settlement law is unjust as well as their criticism of the calculation of the financial compensation.
Under the law, the churches are to be returned land and real estate, confiscated from them by the communist regime, worth 75 billion and given 59 billion crowns plus inflation in financial compensation for unreturned property during the following 30 years. Simultaneously, the state will gradually cease financing churches.
Representatives of churches called on the government to open official negotiations about a cooperative model of further cooperation between the state and churches.
The churches agree to release their financial management and they are ready to undergo a financial audit, they said in a statement.
This will require a change to the law on churches of 2002, not to the law on state-church property settlement, which took effect in January 2013, the churches said.
Alena Gajduskova (CSSD), head of the negotiating team, warned this afternoon that the financial compensation the churches are getting for unreturned property may be taxed unless the CSSD and ANO reach agreement with the churches on a change to the restitution law.
Gajduskova conceded that the possible change to the law would imply the risk of serious disputes because the state signed restitution contracts with the churches that cannot be changed without their agreement.
The contracts were signed by former prime minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) under whom the law on state-church property settlement was passed.
The taxation of the compensation, via a special tax for instance, could be pushed through despite the churches´ stance, Gajduskova said.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) said today the passing of the church restitution law resembles voting in the Ukrainian parliament under various governments in the past years.
He criticised the fact that the legislation was approved by a majority of one vote "at the last moment." Such extensive transfers of property cannot be done this way in a civilised country, Sobotka said.
The churches said they are not to blame for this. They said the Constitutional Court confirmed last year the law was passed in a legitimate and legal way.