Sunday, February 10, 2008

Romania loses a dozen property restitution lawsuits in European human rights court

Saturday, February 9, 2008

BUCHAREST, Romania: Romania has lost a dozen lawsuits relating to the restitution of property confiscated by the Communist regime in the European Court of Human Rights, the government said Saturday.

Eleven cases related to the unlawful sale or misappropriation of property to tenants, depriving the original owners of the property or material compensation, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Another case referred to an owner who was prevented from renting his property, nationalized under communism, to tenants at a market rent.

The court in Strasbourg, France made its ruling Thursday and the cases will cost Romania €3 million (US$4.45 million), the ministry said. There was no other reaction from the centrist government which has supported property restitution.

Many of the cases date back to before the Liberal-led government came to power in late 2004.

Property restitution has been a thorny issue since communism ended in 1989, with former Communists often opposing it or making the process laborious and bureaucratic. The leftists who lost elections in 2004 tended to protect tenants who lived in nationalized property.

Huge amounts of real estate, including houses, private factories, churches and lands were nationalized in 1948 after the communists came to power.

The Liberal-led government passed a law in 2005 aimed at accelerating the return of real estate, schools, hospitals and other property taken from Romania's Jewish community, ethnic Hungarians and other minorities between 1940 and 1989.

The total cost of the restitution of all private, community and religious property was estimated at €5 billion to €8 billion (US$7.48 billion to US$11.9 billion).

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