MP Ramona Petraviča: The spending of the restitution money will be strictly controlled

The Budget and Finance (Taxation) Committee of the Saeima has conceptually supported a bill on the payment of 40 million euros to the Jewish community in compensation for property lost due to the Holocaust. The amount is payable within ten years.
30.08.2021. Jānis Lasmanis
 
©Dmitrijs SUĻŽICS, F64 Photo Agency

According to the proposal of Mārtiņš Bondars, the chairman of the committee and representative of Development/For! (Attīstībai/Par!), it was decided to encourage the Saeima to submit the draft law to the committees and to conceptually support it in the first reading. The deadline for submitting proposals is planned to be one month, and it is predicted that several more clarifications will be made in the draft law.

A representative of the Saeima Legal Bureau also pointed out that several improvements will have to be made to the draft law in the second reading. The representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also pointed out that some clarifications will be necessary, and it was also indicated at the meeting of the committee by the representative of the Ministry of Finance that the opinion of the Minister of Finance Jānis Reirs should also be received.

Nine deputies from several parties voted for the further progress of the bill, but two deputies of the National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība) voted against it. Aleksandrs Kiršteins, a member of the National Alliance, asked for a week before the vote to discuss the issue in both the faction and the coalition party meeting, but this was not accepted.

The further progress of the law was also supported by the former Minister of Welfare, Ramona Petraviča, now in opposition, who two years ago did not support it when the bill was proposed for the first time by Development/For!.

Two years ago, when this bill came on the agenda of the Saeima for the first time, you did not support it. Now you do, what has changed?

I got acquainted with all the materials and analyzed the experience of other countries. Latvia and Poland have not compensated for the value of the property taken away, and I do not think that is right. Moreover, it is not even some kind of compensation, but reparations to the Jewish culture for the property they lost.

Explain to those who do not understand why the state should reimburse the damage caused by other regimes to the community rather than to the individual?

Those people, they were destroyed as a nation, over 90 percent. Their heirs are no longer here. It is true that there is a different regime now, but the buildings were left to Latvia. We cannot demand from Russia or anyone else, because the buildings were left to us. There are schools and hospitals in these buildings. With this compensation, we return those properties. In my opinion, this is a debt that needs to be reimbursed.

Is there any control tool in place to ensure that the money is spent in the interests of the community?

All expenditures are expected to be controlled. It is also included in the draft law, it is stipulated how the control will take place. And the money will be kept in the State Treasury. If it is found that the money has not been used for the intended purpose, it will be possible to return it.

Given that the denationalisation process was concluded many years ago, can we be sure that this will put an end to the issue of restitution?

I am really convinced about it and the Jewish community also confirms this - this is the bill, this is the final settlement. It could not be done otherwise.

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