Eizenstat urges Poland to reconsider suspension of restitution bill

The US government has expressed "disappointment" about Poland’s decision to suspend a planned law providing for the restitution and compensation for private property seized between 1939 and 1989. “The US Government is deeply disappointed that the Polish government has suspended plans to forward to parliament a draft law providing for compensation for those whose private estates were confiscated in the years of 1939 to 1989, the special adviser to the US secretary of state on Holocaust issues, Stuart Eizenstat, told reporters. Eizenstat noted that successive Polish governments had repeatedly asserted that property restitution and compensation would be addressed. He also noted that "most other EU countries, where there is a similar problem, have passed laws providing restitution or compensation for confiscated assets.”

“It's not just a matter of justice. It also lies in the best interest of the Polish, because it would remove doubts about the titles of ownership stemming from potential claims to the property,” Eizenstat added. He stressed that those doubts were "problematic and raise the cost of property insurance in Poland.”

The former US deputy treasury secretary and ambassador, who in the past negotiated numerous restitution agreements with European countries on behalf of the American government, also said that the US "understands" the fiscal constraints required by the European Union for countries aspiring to join the euro, to which the Polish government had referred when stopping restitution. Eizenstat noted however, that the Polish economic situation was better than that of many other European countries. “Thanks to its good fiscal policies, Poland is in far better position than many other countries,” he said.

The same arguments were put forward by Ronald S. Lauder, the head of the World Jewish Restitution Organisation (WJRO) and the World Jewish Congress (WJC), who on Sunday also expressed dismay at the decision of the Polish government.

Asked whether the administration planned further steps in relation to the restitution process in Poland, Eizenstat stressed that Washington’s aim was to convince, "through diplomatic channels", the Polish government about the need for redress, even if it took  the form of compensation over a longer period of time.

Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski tried to rebuff Eizenstat's criticism and in turn accused the Americans of not acting to save Polish Jews during the Holocaust. “If the United States wanted to do something for Polish Jews, then a good moment would have been 1943/44, when most of them were still alive and when Poland pleaded for that," Sikorski told Polish public radio. "Now this intervention is somewhat delayed."

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