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US senators urge Polish president to veto restitution law

20.07.2021 14:00
A group of US senators have urged Polish President Andrzej Duda to veto a planned law on restitution claims in his country.
Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Polish President Andrzej Duda.Photo: PAP/Wojciech Olkuśnik

Last month, Poland's lower house of parliament passed a bill introducing a statute of limitations on claims for the restitution of property, drawing an angry response from Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who labeled it a “disgrace.”

The legislation would implement a 2015 ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that there should be a deadline after which faulty administrative decisions can no longer be challenged. The bill sets this deadline at 30 years.

Critics say the move could make it more difficult for Jews to recover property seized by Poland’s Nazi German occupiers in World War II.

In a letter sent to the Polish president, 12 US senators from both the Democratic and Republican parties wrote they “strongly believe that this legislation would significantly increase the existing hurdles that prevent victims and their families from claiming restitution and compensation for property wrongfully taken by Nazi Germany and by the communist-era government of Poland.”

Polish state news agency PAP reported that Republican Marco Rubio was the lead author of the letter.

One of the other authors is Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who—together with Rubio—was one of the lawmakers behind the JUST Act, a piece of US legislation that required the State Department to report to Congress on steps that European countries have taken to compensate Holocaust survivors and their heirs.

The letter by the 12 US senators also said that Poland has so far been “a dutiful caretaker” of Holocaust memorial sites and that “its democracy stands as a strong beacon of its ever-present commitment to the rule of law and human rights.”

“We firmly believe that the partnership between the United States and Poland is strongest when we are united in our commitment to freedom and justice for the victims of the crimes committed by the Nazis and communists,” the senators wrote.

Israel last month summoned Polish ambassador Marek Magierowski to express its “deep disappointment” over the Polish bill.

Magierowski responded to criticism with a series of English-language tweets defending the bill and saying that it would put an end to “wild reprivatization,” uncertainty and the prospect of eviction for families who “legally acquired their homes.”

Poland's foreign ministry in late June called in the chargé d'affaires of the Israeli embassy in Warsaw amid bilateral tensions over the new bill adopted by Polish MPs.

The planned law is set to be voted in the upper house of Poland’s parliament later this week.


Source: PAP