Jul 09, 2013

Hungarian Minority in Romania: US Congress Members Criticize Romanian Government

Several members of the US Congress are accusing Romania of refusing to return the properties the communists have confiscated from the Hungarian communities in the country.

Below is an article published by Romania Insider:

Several members of the US Congress are accusing Romania of refusing to return the properties the communists have confiscated form the Jew and Hungarian communities in the country, but the Romanian Embassy in Washington insists that the government in Bucharest is doing its best in a “complex situation”, according to the Washington Times.

Twenty members of Congress, 13 Republican and 7 Democrats wrote Secretary of State John F. Kerry earlier in June, asking him to put pressure on Romania, so that the country deals with the claims of Christians and Jewish leaders, who are trying to reclaim churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages and other property. In total, more than 4,000 church buildings and other religious property taken by the communist government after World War II are part of this restitution case.

The Congress members are asking the State Department to “vigorously engage the Romanian government to end the travesty of justice which it has perpetuated by failing to fully restitute properties illegally confiscated from religions denominations after 1945.” In 2005, the Congress passed a resolution asking Romania to settle the claims made by religious communities over the seized properties.

In response, the Romanian Embassy in the US released a statement saying “Romania is firmly committed to a solution that would completely restore, where possible, the original property rights, including those of religious denominations.”

According to the Romanian Government, the restitution of religious properties to the Hungarian minority in Romania is part of the bilateral dialogue between Romania and Hungary.

The signers of the US Congress letter include Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, head of the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee, and Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and co-chairman of the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Property restitution is currently a hot topic in Romania. Earlier in June, The Council Of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has welcomed moves made by the Romanian authorities to reform the mechanisms and legal processes in the restitution of property confiscated during the communist era. The changes come in response to a landmark case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), in which the restitution system in Romania was found to be wanting. The country has a new system in place to compensate the owners of seized property, which involves received ‘points’ which can be cashed in or changed against agricultural land. This is an extra National Fund that includes agricultural land and forest, which would be given to former owners who failed to be compensated via the Fondul Proprietatea, which had been created for this purpose.