News 15 Aug 17

Serbia’s Plan for Post-WWII Restitution ‘Flawed’

The Serbian government is to decide on a formula to calculate compensation for property seized after World War II, but the Network for Restitution argues the authorities have no real idea of the cost.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Mile Antic of the Network for Restitution. Photo: Medija Centar.

The Network for Restitution NGO has warned the Serbian government that the two billion euros it has set aside to compensate owners of property that was confiscated by the Communist authorities after World War II is likely not to be enough.

The government is to adopt a coefficient to calculate how to split the two billion euros.

But the Network for Restitution said that is has yet to be determined how much property can be simply given back.

Without knowing that, the government can’t know how many former owners it will have to compensate in cash, so any formula it comes up with now will be a miscalculation.

"I believe that there will be a problem and that some people will not get any money as compensation," said Mile Antic from the Network for Restitution.

Antic told BIRN that the value of the property which was expropriated by the Yugoslav state after the war is far greater than two billion euros.

His association is advocating the return of as much property as possible.

In cases in which land cannot be returned, the owners should be compensated in kind, with the state giving them land in another location, it argues.

But the director of Serbian Agency for Restitution, Strahinja Sekulic, says that the process of returning confiscated property is in its final stages.

"We will propose the coefficient to the government by September and we expect to pay out the first compensation by the end of the year," Sekulic told regional television station N1 on Sunday.

The Agency told BIRN that in over 99 per cent of cases, it is clear whether expropriated property can be compensated for in cash or in kind.

"The remaining less than one per cent of cases cannot affect the total costs of compensation," the Agency said in response to BIRN’s inquiry.

Antic said that the government has the legal obligation to adopt a coefficient, but that the data gathered by the Agency for Restitution is "unreliable".

He suggested for example that over a third of property on Belgrade’s central Knez Mihailova street should be returned to private owners.

However, the most valuable property that has not yet been returned is agricultural and building land, he added.

"In several years, when it is clear what cannot be returned, a coefficient should be determined. Compensation in cash should be avoided because it means raising the public debt, and Serbia doesn’t need that," he said.

NOTE: This article was updated on August 15 to add the Serbian Agency for Restitution's response.

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