published: 22.02.2013, 14:15 | updated: 22.02.2013 14:16:43
Prague - Czech PM Petr Necas signed today contracts with 16 churches and religious communities on financial settlement on behalf of the government in spite of the opposition´s protests and the fact that the Constitutional Court (US) has not yet ruled on three complaints against the law law.
Under the law, which the Chamber of Deputies passed last November, 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. The largest sum, 47 billion crowns, would go to the Roman Catholic Church.
At the same time the payment of state subsidies they now receive will be gradually stopped. It now amounts to some 1.5 billion crowns annually, but it will be gradually lowered until it is completely terminated after 17 years.
The Czech Baptist Union is the sole of the 17 entities entitled to the compensation not to have signed the contract, saying the property it lost under the communists is negligible and that it has been used to self-funding.
"It is mainly an act of justice because this step redresses certain wrongs that were done to churches and religious communities during the communist regime," Necas said at a press conference after the signature.
"At the same time the foundations of new modern relations between the state on the one hand and the churches and religious communities on the other have been laid," Necas said.
The act of signature alone was closed to the media. Representatives of some churches did not allegedly wish their presence on the occasion.
Journalists could not even talk to them on their arrival in the Government Office.
The law on property settlement with churches has been strongly criticised by the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), Communists (KSCM) and Public Affairs (VV).
All three parties have filed complaints demanding the abolition of the legislation or its parts.
The CSSD also asked the US on Thursday to grant an injunction banning the signature of the contracts pending a ruling by the US.
However, the US plenum that must deal with such a proposal will only meet next week.
The CSSD said the government may be trying to press on the court to only make a decision after the signature of the contracts.
US secretary-general Tomas Langasek said today it would be correct and responsible if the government did not hurry signing the contracts and waited for the court to give its ruling.
President-elect Milos Zeman (Party of Citizens´ Rights, SPOZ) also said today he would not sign the contracts before the US makes a decision.
Necas said, however, the date of signature was planned a long time beforehand and that he does not expect the US to abolish the law.
The US should not be turned into a third house of parliament, Necas said.
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