Washington – Members of the Helsinki Commission called on President George W. Bush to raise the longstanding issue of property compensation/restitution with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski in their January 26 meeting in Washington.
“Two years ago, President Kwasniewski, joined by Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimosiewicz, assured me and other congressional leaders that Poland would have a law on property restitution or compensation ready by early 2003,” said United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today. “Unfortunately, Prime Minister Leszek Miller’s government, like others before it, continues to place this issue on the back burner. I again urge President Bush to raise this issue with his Polish counterpart during their upcoming White House meeting, consistent with the administration’s stated policy”.
“Property restitution or compensation is an important matter for thousands of people who fled to the United States from Poland because of religious, ethnic or political persecution during World War II or the communist period,” added Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). “It is regrettable that this issue continues to cast a shadow on relations between Poland and the United States which, in virtually every other respect, are outstanding. The clock continues to tick for aged claimants – time is critical for an equitable resolution of this longstanding issue.”
Ranking Commission Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) observed, “Members of the Helsinki Commission met with Polish officials in Warsaw last October to underscore our concern. While we appreciate the complex challenges presented by this issue, I am both frustrated and disappointed by Poland’s repeated delays in adopting a law. As we said to President Kwasniewski one year ago, ‘every day counts.’”
A central element of Nazi and communist persecution in Central and Eastern Europe was the uncompensated confiscation of real and personal property from individuals and religious communities. The United States Helsinki Commission advocates the return or compensation of such properties.