Poland - Restitution
Prior to 1990, many individuals and businesses were deprived of their property under post-war Communist nationalization or expropriation laws. The law provides for restitution of communal property seized during the Communist and Nazi eras. However, there is no comprehensive law on returning or compensating for privately held real property confiscated during these periods.
Until the adoption of comprehensive legislation establishing rights with respect to the nationalization of property, restitution claims can only be successful if the decision to nationalize the property was made without legal basis or in violation of the then existing nationalization or expropriation laws. Claims for restitution have been successful in cases where both administrative and civil procedures have been used by the claimants.
Despite the lack of specific legislation, some illegally nationalized private property has been restored. Between 1989 and the end of April 2009, approximately 90,000 claims were filed and 15,300 were resolved in favor of the claimants. Between 2001 and the first eight months of 2009, approximately 471 million zloty ($165 million) was paid in compensation for illegally nationalized private property. Compensation from the State Treasury Reprivatization Fund was distributed to 2,068 individuals and 43 businesses. Compensation payments were also made to persons who lost private property as a result of state persecution.
Property owned by the religious communities is being returned based on the legislation adopted for this purpose and under current restitution proceedings contained in the Administrative Code. The government continued to work with local and international religious groups to address property claims and other sensitive issues stemming from persecution and confiscation during World War II and the Communist era. There are five commissions, one each for the Catholic Church, Jewish community, Lutheran Church, and Orthodox Church--plus one for all other denominations. They are supervised by the interior minister and oversee religious property claims. Of the approximately 10,000 claims filed for restitution of communal religious property, more than 5,200 had been resolved and more than 1,200 properties had been returned by year's end. However, concerns remained with the slow pace of Jewish communal property restitution.
As of August 31, 2009, a total of 1,483 of the 3,063 claims filed by the Catholic Church were settled between the church and the party in possession of the property, which was primarily the national or local government. The deadline for filing claims ended in 1992. There were 5,504 property claims submitted by the Jewish community. As of August 31, the commission either partially or entirely concluded 1,722 cases. The deadline for filing claims under a 1997 law ended in 2002. The Lutheran Church filed claims for 1,200 properties. As of September 18, 905 cases were closed. The deadline for filing claims ended in 1996. As of August 31, the Orthodox Church filed 472 claims with its commission. Of these cases 354 were closed. The deadline for filing claims ended in 2006. The fifth property commission, for claims by all other denominations, received 168 claims. As of August 31, a total of 68 cases had been closed. The deadline for filing a claim ended in 2006.
Pursuant to a 2005 law concerning properties lost because of border changes after World War II, the government continued to pay compensation on 20 percent of the value of such property. As of November the state treasury paid cumulative compensation in 23,266 cases of approximately 1 billion zloty ($351 million). According to the government, the 2005 law could affect approximately 80,000 claimants for property that is now located in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. The law also requires the state treasury to create registers of all claimants who have the right to compensation. The deadline for submitting applications for claims was December 2008.
As it would not, in many cases, be possible to return the property to former owners while respecting the constitutional principle of property protection, a restitution fund has been established by the State Treasury for purposes of compensating successful claimants.
The State Treasury has prepared draft legislation with respect to compensation for the nationalization of real estate. Under this draft legislation the former owners of nationalized property would have the opportunity to seek compensation regardless of whether the nationalization of the property was made without legal basis or in violation of the then existing nationalization or expropriation laws. The draft legislation currently provides an allocation of PLN 20 billion in compensation. However, in 2008, potential claims under the draft legislation were estimated to be PLN 140 billion.
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