news 17 Jul 14

Strasbourg Rules Against Ljubljana Bank and Slovenia

Ruling holds important implications for several hundred thousand former clients of the defunct bank in former Yugoslavia who lost millions in savings.

Sven Milekic

The European Court for Human Rights, ECHR, on Wednesday ruled in favour of two citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who sued the Ljubljana Bank and the state of Slovenia for not returning their foreign currency savings lost in the early 1990s.

The bank was liquidated in the early 1990s. In 1994, a new bank was formed with its assets, but not its liabilities, which left many former clients without their savings. Slovenian clients filed lawsuits that ended by 1998, but around 130,000 savers in Croatia and 165,000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina remain without refunds.

As the bank functioned throughout the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia insisted it was a “succession” issue that should be resolved by all the successor states.

However, the Court has now confirmed the first-degree judgement from 2012, which said Slovenia and the bank were liable for refunding the foreign savings of two citizens of Bosnia, and that Slovenia had violated the savers’ rights to protection of their property and to an effective remedy.

The court ordered Slovenia to repay the two within a year and pay each of them 4,000 euro for non-material damages.

The judgment has important implications for all former clients of the former bank, 130,000 of whom are in Croatia, and who still seek the 130 million euro they lost - plus interest.

Croatia’s representative before the ECHR, Stefica Staznik, said the judgment will apply for all former clients of the bank and that Slovenia will have to pass a law in order to repay their lost deposits.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic hailed the judgment as just, noting, however, that it has “put Slovenia in a complicated situation, because of the interest rate during those years.

“Either way, it is Slovenia’s obligation to ensure people the right to enjoy their property. It is same as Slovenian homes on the Croatian coast, which number in the thousands and were never questioned nor taken away,” he added.

“I am sorry that it had to end in this way. Everyone lost in a way, and Slovenia the most,” concluded Milanovic.


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