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STRATOS PARADIAS

 

UNION INTERNATIONALE  DE LA PROPRIETE IMMOBILIERE (UIPI).

 

REPORT ON THE EFFORTS OF UIPI FOR PROPERTY RESTITUTION IN THE FORMER EASTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES

 

By Stratos Paradias, President of UIPI

 

When Berlin wall fell, the people of the countries of the former eastern European countries, were given back their freedom, but not their properties, confiscated or nationalized, or taken away from them in many ways and in many stages.

For UIPI, restitution of confiscated property is matter of enforcing the respect of property rights, which is one of the basic human rights UIPI is standing for. It is unacceptable that while property rights are guaranteed to present owners all over Europe, in some countries those who were deprived of their property by force of the previous regime would not have the possibility to restore their property rights and that the state or somebody else would today claim the rights to this property, based on illegitimate actions taken by authorities during the period of the totalitarian system.

UIPI  has spared no efforts in trying to help the associations for real estate property restitution in almost all eastern european countries with former communist regimes, namely Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, to solve this problem. Today its effort is expanded to the Balkan countries, Romania, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Our President of that time, Professor Dr. Lujo Toncic-Sorinj, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria and Secretary of the Council of Europe, visited all these countries and spoke with their Government officials at the highest possible level, and lobbied in favor of these cause in European Institutions.  He introduced many UIPI Congress or Conferences Declarations, concerning property restitution.

As Secretary General of UIPI, I spoke in Warsaw to the Congress of the Polish Organization PUWN, in Bucarest to the Romanian Property Owners Organization APDAS, in the presence of the Ambassador of the U.S.A., and in Belgrade, to a big reunion of the League for the Protection of Property and Human Rights. I also visited the German Vice President of the European Parliament Dr. Friedrich, for the same reason. I proposed to the UIPI Executive Committee the establishment of a special working committee for Property Restitution, headed by Mr. Edo Pirkmajer. Finally I organized the Conference of Thessaloniki for Property Restitution in the Balkans.

UIPI Vice President Mr. Edo Pirkmajer, former State Secretary for privatization in Slovenia, is presiding to a special UIPI working committee for Property Restitution, which is currently dealing with this complex political and social problem. Mr. Pirkmajer has organized a series of meetings with European Parliament members and EU officials concerning property restitution.

UIPI has issued many of its official Declarations, the Warsaw Declaration of 1993, the Vienna Declaration of 1994, the Turin Declaration of 1995, to demand from the governments of the former Eastern communist Countries to restore real estate property rights to their legal owners. We have also written many letters to international institutions and politicians for this purpose. Finally UIPI convoked a Conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, (May 2004) to assist all the Balkan countries organizations in their fight for Property Restitution.

      There were significant results in all these efforts, which lasted for all those years, but the overall outcome was not up to our expectations.

In Germany, properties seized during the Soviet rule period between 45-49, were not restored, owners were only given some some very low compensation, far below the market values. On the contrary, properties seized within the period 1949 until 1990, there was a legal principle of restitution, with a lot of exceptions, for example for reasons of investments, acquisition in good faith etc. In these cases the former owners receive a compensation below the market value.

In Poland, only after long years of struggles, there is a law, providing for the return of 50% of the seized properties, excluding all Polish citizens living abroad and not possessing polish citizenship, as well as their heirs.

        In Czech Republic it seems that two laws passed in 1990 and 1994 have provided for the return of property to the former owners, and their Constitutional Court extended this treatment to even those living permanently outside of the country.  Still many cases are not resolved, while restitution of houses includes also the protected  tenants who remain in them for years with symbolic rents. 

In Slovenia  there is a legislation providing for restitution or compensation for most of the former owners.  The problem is, that the claims are processed following very complicated rules, that left after 13 years, since the process was introduced, about 20% of claims, still pending.

In Romania, where properties were confiscated in various time periods and under different excuses, the current government intends to solve the property restitution problems concerning real estate in towns as well as agrarian landed properties. The now proposed projects are still worse than the present situation: sold properties, even sold illegally with respect to the past laws, would not be returned in kind. The same rule applies to real estate sold to private companies. The deadline for suits against illegal selling transactions expired in August 2003. Instead of real estate, or cash compensations, only participation titles at a fund "Proprietatea" – ("Property") are offered. The "Property" fund is fed with stocks from societies which could not be privatized and with claims/liabilities from such debtors as Somalia, Irak, Iran etc.! The only consolation is that the government agreed to discuss with the organizations for property restitution, after their long struggles and the interventions of UIPI.

In Serbia, most properties were confiscated or nationalized, and still there is no adequate legislation for its return to the truthful owners. The League for Human Rights is asking for:

an immediate ban on the sale of all property of a confiscated origin;

revocation of all improper laws under which property had been seized and then privatised;

a revision of the illegitimately implemented privatisation;

restitution of forcibly seized property as the first and unavoidable step in the process of future privatisation, with return of physical assets as the basic model of restitution.

In Croatia and Bulgaria there is already legislation providing for partial restitution, but procedures take years to bring practical results to the owners.

In Albania the struggle of the former owners keeps going on. A new law has been passed about the restitution and the compensation of the properties. The organization of property owners “Property with Justice” has challenged it to the Constitutional Court. The procedure of property restitution is closely monitored from the Task Force of EU, which is not satisfied by the steps taken by the Albanian Goverment regarding this issue.

I consider it an indispensable duty to every democratic government, to restore justice and give back real estate property, nationalized or confiscated in any way, currently still in the hands of the governments or government officials, or others, to the former owners. The violation of property rights is one of the most serious violations of human rights. UIPI will never cease protesting about this great historical injustice and working on the issue, and will never abandon it’s victims, the rightful owners of the stolen properties.

Stratos Paradias, President of UIPI

 

 

UIPI DECLARATIONS AND SOME OTHER ACTIONS FOR PROPERTY RESTITUTION:

 

1. UIPI Declaration of Athens, 30th of May 1991

 

 

       Private real estate is the essential foundation for a liberal economic and social community. It is in close relation to the personal freedom of the people. Therefore it is the task of a democratic state to protect the concrete property in the hands of the owner.

        It is based on this axiom that a reprivatisation of the expropriated properties should take place in the former socialist countries. This means that the expropriated citizen is entitled to the restitution of his property.

        The restitution should only be withheld, if it is impossible for factual reason or for urgent investments that are compelled by the common welfare.

         In these exceptional cases the expropriated person must be completely indemnified. If he requires such an indemnification in land property instead of money, it should be given in such a way.

           

 2. UIPI Declaration de Varsovie Decembre 1992

 

La brutale transformation intervenue dans les anciens pays communistes a non seulement permis d’espérer l’établissement d’une vraie démocratie et l’instauration d’un état de droit, mais aussi a signifié pour les propriétaires l’aurore d’une ere novelle.

 

Les déclarations faites publiquement expliquaient d’une part que seraient effacées les injustices causées par les dépossessions, d’autre part que les rapports de droit permettraient dorénavant une gestion normale des immeubles.

 

En cinquante années d’application les théories communistes ont conduit à un délabrement complet des immeubles. Une modification de cette situation catastrophique ne peut être obtenue que par le rétablissement des droits privés. Seuls ceux-ci peuvent donner aux initiatives privées, les garanties de confiance entraînait l’investissement des fond privés.

 

Or l’on est obligé de constater que l’évolution positive espérée se trouve aujourd’hui contrariée pour plusieurs raisons.

 

1.    Les lois indispensables pour assurer la restitution des immeubles dont les propriétaires ont été dépossédés sont soin retardées dans leur application, soit même non encore rédigées. 

2.    Les promesses faites sur le plan politique ne sont pas tenues si bien que les intéressés comme l’opinion publique ont été trompés. 

3.    Dans la mesure où les prescriptions légales existent elles ne sont pas mises en application, les fonctionnaires demeurant enfermés dans le piège de la dialectique communiste don ils n’ont pas voulu, pu ou su se défaire.

 

    Les hommes politiques donnent à la communauté internationale, par des déclarations contraires à la vérité, une fausse image de la situation réelle.

 

 

3. UIPI Declaration of Turin, 24th  September 1995

 

 

Private real estate property is the expression of personal freedom and it is therefore an inalienable right that has to be observed by all states. It is the inviolable foundation of democracy and it represents the essential basis for an efficient market economy, aiming at responding to the needs of individuals. Private property is not secured anymore when the State sets bounds to the owner’s rights, to such a point that it does not deserve the name of property anymore, but that it becomes only a nudum ius.

 

In the western states as in the former communist states, private property is acknowledged by the constitutions as being an institution of right, even if it is dangeroursly threatened by the numerous and repeated assaults launched under covers such as ecology.

 

In this context private property especially in urban areas is overwhelmed with steadily increasing development costs.

 

These costs go beyond the increases in the lands’ value when they become building lands. The consequence of this a disguised expropriation. In the former communist states that recognised the right to property in their constitutions, the confiscated properties have not been restituted yet or have only been restituted with an inadmissible slowness.

 

A restitution without delay is absolutely necessary in order to redress the grievances of the past and to revive market economy.

 

Private property is an inalienable human right, in conclusion, it can be neither granted nor confiscated by the State.

 

4. Slovenian Report, Ljubljana,  9 – 12 May 1996, UIPI meeting.

      Private property is accepted in the former socialist countries in all social levels and in the whole society. This means that in some countries, like Hungary, reprivatisation and reorganization of the economy  on the base of the private property and the free market is done without the national property owner associations. The reason is perhaps, that until now reprivatisation, which means compensation of injustice done against the property owners, was in the middle of the effort of the associations. One cannot deny that other classes of society, first of all the section of population of the tenants, had not interest to restore the former legal situation. Therefore in all these countries the political parties as well as the governments are very much reserved, if not even against it.

 

 5. CROATIAN REPORTS

 

a. Report by  SUVLAH, UIPI meeting in Dubrovnik

 

In it’s proceedings for acceptance into the European Union on 15 March 1996 the president of the Republic of Croatia and the president of the Croatian Sabor signed an official document that specifies requirements and responsibilities of Croatia before it joins the Council of Europe. Among others, until the enactment of Protocol NO 11 conditions from Opinion NO 195 (1996) of the European Council: the Republic of Croatia must respect the right of individuals to approach the European Commission for Human Rights and the jurisdiction of the European Court (Art. 25 and 46, ECHR).

 

At the end of October 1996 the long-awaited acts that regulate citizens’ ownership rights were finally issued. However, the so-called ”transferring regulations” within these acts rudely and permanently violate the legitimate owners’ constitutional and human rights, for example, in the transformation (privatisation) of the companies in collective ownership. The following text will illustrate just few details:

 

Under the transferring provisions of the Ownership Act and other Genuine Rights the ”granted use” of the collectively owned land (inherited from the repealed communist regime) will turn into a ”granted ownership” for the user without compensation and without reimbursement for the legitimate owner of this nationalised or confiscated land. Therefore, contrary to the Act Prohibiting Transfer of the Right to Manage and Use certain Real-Estate that is in effect until the ownership rights of the legitimate owner whose property was expropriated have been established.

 

To provide the means for such transactions the new Land Registry Act directs that the books of signed contracts shall be combined with the land registry book and the land registry book shall be considered unreliable for the period of 5 years.

 

 

b. Report of September 30 1998, UIPI meeting, Dubrovnic

 

After transforming Croatia in an indepentend state the questions because of the property are not only open, but much more confused than before. The reason is that the transformation of former ”social” property in private property was done based on unconstitutional laws. Although the land register was declared for 5 years for not relevant. The consequence is a huge number of legal proceedings. The results are not foreseeable and the property rights open and controversial.

SUVLAH has initiated the examination of many laws, e.g. the constitutional law about the leading of the constitution of the Republic of Croatia, the law about the compensation of during the Yugoslavian communist rule confiscated property, the land register law, the law about property and other article of property laws. Until now there is no reaction of the Constitutional Court.  

 

 

6. ROMANIAN PROTEST

 

To Mr. Alvaro GIL-ROBLES
Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Council of Europe
F-67075 Strasbourg CEDEX
France.
                                                                 March 17, 2003

 

RE: PROTEST FOR PROPERTY RESTITUTION IN ROMANIA.

 

Dear Sir

 

A. Introduction.

 

The International Union for Private Real Estate Property (U.I.P.I.), is the European Organization defending real estate property owners in the international field. One of our 20 members is the Romanian Committee for Private Property (CPP), representing the Romanian truthful property owners whose  real estate properties have been illegaly taken away, and till now have not been restituted yet by the postcommunist regime.

UIPI is strongly protesting for the injustice done to the Romanian property owners, which has been lasting for over 50 years and is asking you to exercise all your influence, so that a fair solution is given to their problem.


B. The problem. Short overview of the historical evolution:



q       As our Romanian colleagues have informed us, to expropriate the industry and real estate (about 400.000 properties), the communist régime issued expropriation laws, which were contrary to the Civil Code and even to the Constitution in force at that time. Thus, they could not grant a legal title to the Romanian state. In spite of this fact, most of their effects have not been abrogated, and the property title conferred by communist laws is still considered as a "legal title" by the some courts. Truthful owners are still qualified by the courts as exploiters! (in 2003!)

q       After 1990 a great part of real estate has been sold to favorites of existing régimes, at dumping prices. The beneficiaries of these actions were either the tenants living in the confiscated flats (law 112/1995), or owners of so called privatized societies. In the last case stocks of former state societies have been sold at dumping prices, the new owners selling later the real estate at prices at least ten times higher than the price paid for the stocks.

q       The “reparation laws” issued by the postcommunist régime (e.g. law 10/ 2001), instead of repairing the communist illegalities, generated new ones. In fact the overwhelming majority of confiscated properties are excepted from restitution in kind, e.g. confiscated real estate “sold” illegally after 1990 by the state (“the illegal owner”) to tenants or to privatized companies, as well as buildings occupied by health, educational, cultural or public institutions, political parties, and diplomatic missions. Thruthful owners should be compensated by the state, and compensations will be either limited, or distributed over time (between 2005-2015).

q       The maintenance of this plundering constitutes a large-scale violation of human rights: Romanian laws concerning restitution of confiscated real estate violate several articles of the European Convention of Human Rights, (art. 6, 13, 14 and art. 1 of the 1st additional Protocol).  The European Court of Human Rights condemned he Romanian State to restitute real estate or to pay important compensations (up to 900.000 $ per case) in more than 28 cases, other cases are still pending.

Although the „reparation law“ 10/2001 has been issued for about 2 years (february 2001), only a minor fraction of the requests have yet been solved: e.g. in Romania only 6.000 from 210.000 request have been solved, while in Bucharest only 538 properties out of 39.831 applications have been restituted (situation as of February 7, 2003).

 

 

C. The solution: In kind restitution or compensation for confiscated real estate in Romania

 

At this moment there are two categories of owners for about 400.000 real estate objects in Romania: truthful owners, which were expropriated during the communist regime (1945-1989), and the new owners, who bought these objects for dumping prices, after 1990. A comparison of the value of property titles of these two categories by independent and impartial courts would lead to a clear decision in favour of the truthful owners. So did the Supreme Court of Justice, in some particular cases, but inferior instances pass often sentences which do not respect these judgements.

The Romanian Government faces two alternatives, concerning restitution in kind or compensation:

1.    To restitute in kind the real estate to the truthful owners and to pay compensations to the new owners. Doing like that:

·     The value of compensations would be reduced to about 1/10 of the value to be paid when truthful owners were compensated, because prices paid by new owners varied between 3.000 – 35.000 $ per unit, while the market value was many times higher, between 40.000-500.000 $. So e.g. a flat in Bucharest, Povernei Street, has been sold to the tenant for 3.000 $, its market value being about 40.000 $; one “mogul” in Bucharest bought the stocks of a society for the equivalent of about 33.500 $ and afterwards sold just a building belonging to this society for 500.000 $, Mr Secares paid for a real estate 28.000.000 ROL, while the European Court of Human Rights granted the truthful owner a compensation of 195.000 € (equivalent today to about 685.000.000 ROL).

·     This way, an illegality, which has been lasting for almost 60 years would be eliminated

·     Corruption, a fundamental disease of the Romanian contemporary society, could be practically avoided in this field

·     Administrative procedures, as value evaluation, procurement of documents, would be substantially simplified, because selling documents to the new owners would be immediatelly available.

2.  Leave the confiscated properties to the the new owners and pay compensations to the truthful ones. This procedure would lead exactly to the contrary effects:

·     substantially higher compensation payments

·     unfairness towards the truthful owners, the impoverished taxpayers, and eventually towards the European Union, who should support this suplementary burden, while profiteers would obtain huge profits

·     corruption

·     complicated administrative procedures, each of the approx. 200.000 cases should be examined and evaluated separately.

Dear Sir,

 

 Taking into account these facts,  the International Union for Private Real Estate Property (UIPI), is asking you to act as soon as possible, so that the Romanian Authorities must promulgate a fair and economic solution of this flagrant violation of Property Rights in Romania.

 

TThank you beforehand for your kind cooperation

 

TThe President, Henny Van Herwijnen, The Netherlands,

TThe Secr. General, Stratos Paradias, Greece.                                

 

 

 

7. SERBIAN DECLARATION, 30.11.2003

 

BELGRADE DECLARATION

adopted at THE INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF BELGRADE, :

“Property Restitution in Serbia – the Route to a Civic Society”

Main Speakers: Edo Pirkmajer, Slovenia, Vice President of UIPI &

Stratos Paradias, Greece, Secretary General of UIPI.

Slavenco Grgurevic, President of LHRP, Belgrade

 

             The 1.200 legal owners of nationalized or confiscated (without any compensation) real estate property in Serbia, gathered today Nov. 30, 2003, in Beograd, DECLARE to the European public and Governments and to the European International Institutions:

 

1.      The fundamental aims of the League for the Protection of Private Property and Human Rights  (hereinafter: League) are the following: restoration of the traditional civic society in Serbia and the preservation and promotion of national values of the Serbs and other peoples in Serbia and the Balkans. These aims can only be realised in a society which respects private property and civil liberties as fundamental values of civilisation.          

 

2.      The right to private property, personal choice and physical integrity are the foundations of the rule of law. It is in the way in which these foundations are built that we can recognise legal security, economic efficiency and social stability, on the extend of which the welfare of society is directly dependent.

 

3.      Private property is a demarcation line between free – civic and evil- dictatorial societies. This made reprivatisation, as the foundation for justly organised ownership relations, a correct step in the direction of social change in all countries freed from communist terror. Given the lack of political will exhibited by the authorities in Serbia to implement the process of privatisation in a legitimate manner, within the framework of fundamental social, economic and political reforms, the League especially supports the following:

a)    an immediate ban on the sale of all property of a confiscated origin;

b)    revocation of all improper laws under which property had been seized and then privatised;

c)     a revision of the illegitimately implemented privatisation;

d)    restitution of forcibly seized property as the first and unavoidable step in the process of future privatisation, with return of physical assets as the basic model of restitution.

 

4.      In resolving the problem of property seized on the basis of illegitimate law and then sold, restitution in kind must be effected to the true (legitimate) owners, while compensation should be made to the new owners to the value of the funds invested in it (with a compulsory possibility of an agreement and settlement between the true owner and the new owner), whereby the entire procedure of establishing ownership rights on a legitimate basis is made efficient, corruption and crime rooted out in a large segment of society and the process of restitution made as cheap as possible for the state and its citizens – taxpayers.

Indiscriminate recognition of the illegitimately implemented privatisation would, given the heavy internal debt burden to the state, slow down Serbia’s progress towards integration into the Balkans and Europe as a whole.

 

5.      The principles of restitution of forcibly confiscated property championed by the League are based on observance of the following:

-         The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

-         The European Convention for the Protection of Human Righrs and Fundamental Freedoms and its protocols;

-         International conventions on civic and political, economic, social and cultural rights of the UN, the Declaration on the Fundamental Principles of Justice for the Victims of Crime and Abuse of Authority (Report A/49/881 dated 29 November 1985.);

-         The European Social Charter;

-         The documents of the Copenhagen and Moscow conferences of the OSCE on the human dimension;

-         International obligations to Resolutions 1089 (1996) and 1096 (1996) of the Council of Europe;

-         EU Resolution B4 - 1493/95, US Congressional resolution No.562 dated 1 October 1998.      

                                                                             

                            

8. BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA LETTER

 

To the President of Council of Ministers B&H Mr. Adnan Terzić,

Sarajevo. Fax: +387 33 211 464. 

To Mr. Donald S. Hays, Office of the High Representative,

Sarajevo, Fax: +387 33 283 970.

 

RE: Immovable Property Restitution in Bosnia-Herzegovina

 

Dear Sirs,

 

Our  international organization, established in 1923, consists of 20 national organizations of immovable property owners all over Europe, and represents their views and interests in paneuropean and international level. U.I.P.I. advocates for establishing of law state in Bosnia and Herzegovina, based on the rule of law, respect of ownership and other  internationally recognized and guaranted human rights

We have been recently approached by the ASSOCIATION OF THE OWNERS NATIONALIZED AND CONFISCATED PROPERTY in Bosnia-Herzegovina (their President is Mr. Mustafa Vatrenjak). They claim that their right of  ownership is violated  in Bosnia and Herzegovina by not passing a Law on property restitution, while the privatization is already in full swing. As the laws on  privatization  of the state property  have been already passed and  implemented, before the passing of the Law on Restitution, we fear that the objective solutions of debatable ownership relations are prejudiced.

Free enjoyment of one’s property, which we stand for, is possible only in a state based on rule of law, respect of ownership and other internationally guaranteed human rights. The right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s property, is a basic Human Right, protected by so many international treaties, such as:

-         the General Declaration of the United Nations on Human Rights;

-         the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms with protocols;

-         International pacts of the UN on civil, political,economic, social and cultural rights, the Declaration on the Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (Report A/40/881of 29 November1985);

-         The European Social Charter;

-         Documents of the Copenhagen and Moscow OSCE meetings on the human dimension , as well as

-         International commitments stemming from Resolution 1089(1996)and 1096(1996) of the Council of Europe , Resolution B4-1493/95 of the European Union , and US Congress  Resolution no.562 of 1 October 1998,

That is why we are carefully following the situation in all our member countries and also in Bosnia & Herzegovina. We know  the difficulties the Government is encountring and we appreciate the efforts for a speady transition in this direction.

So, with this letter we are stressing to you the urgent need to solve the restitution problems in your country by a corresponding legislation. We have confidence, that the Government knows that restitution is an important step in restoring the normal ownership structure in the economy, that was dominated by state owned enterprises and other assets and to correct the injustices during the communist regime and is willing to act according to the international treaties, resolutions and other international practices. We feel that this is a very  important task of the Government as it strengthens the confidence of the domestic and international community that the ownership rights be safeguarded as general Human Rights also in Bosnia & Herzegovina  as a precondition to a European future, to integration aid and foreign investments.

We suggest that the Law on Restitution should be finally passed on the state level of Bosnia & Herzegovina and that the Entities laws should be coordinated  with it.

We think that the restitution “in natura” of complete existing  unjustly  taken property, as well as the compensation from the funds of state unprivatized property where it is necessary (primarily compensation  by unprivatized  state flats);  is the   most suitable and least expensive form of restitution  for Bosnia and Herzegovina, as this form of restitution demands the mimimum of financial burden.

Dear Sir, we will follow also in the future with great interest, the developments of this procedure and inform the international authorities and public on the situation in your country. On the other hand, our organization is willing to provide assistance of experts if the Government would deem it necessary.

 

With our best regards

 

The President, Stratos Paradias, Greece, mail@uipi.com

The Vice President Edo Pirkmajer, Slovenia, edo@pirkmajer-u.si

The Secretary General, Salvatore Conte, brussels@uipi.com

 




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