MP Kiršteins: The question is not about the 40 million, but about the corruption of Latvian politicians
Why did the issue of paying 40 million euros to the Jewish community suddenly appear in the Saeima again? Last time, the Saeima rejected this draft law.
To suddenly throw in the question of these 40 million - it was extremely shameless to do so.
This was not discussed in any of the coalition's co-operation councils, it is only an initiative of the party association Development/For! and Mārtiņš Bondars. At the committee meeting, Bondars showed a completely unready and erroneous document. Already in the first paragraph of the draft law, it was written that during the occupation of Latvia, the nationalization of property was implemented, without indicating that it was a Soviet occupation. The Soviet occupation was deliberately not mentioned because it did not really comply with the Terezin Declaration, which provides for compensation for cultural values and real estate confiscated by the Nazis, but in Latvia, they were crimes of the Soviet occupiers.
The most tragic thing is that everything mentioned in this declaration about Jewish people applies equally to Latvians and other ethnic groups in Latvia. In the first year of communist terror, the communists deprived farmers of livestock, agricultural machinery and sent whole families to Siberia, where most of them died. But they are not entitled to any compensation. The Terezin Declaration makes no mention of communist crimes because, in many of the countries that have joined it, communist crimes do not count as crimes at all. It is fair to return the gold and art taken away from the Jewish people, but to whom do the wealthy Latvians who were dragged out of their beds and loaded into cattle wagons demand compensation for when the Chekists looted apartments, stole jewelry and works of art?
The autumn and spring sessions remain until the next Saeima elections, and it would be decent for the parties to go to the polls with the following slogan: we will give away the taxpayers' money as a gift of "goodwill". Voters could then decide whether to vote for the party or not. But in this case, Development/For! has acted very dishonestly.
If I remember correctly, the Latvian state already gave the property back to the Jewish people.
Not just returned the property. The Latvian state finances educational, health institutions and museums every year. The Latvian state returned the buildings to the Jewish community both during the time of the Supreme Council and in 2016. If the annotation of the law emphasizes that this compensation of 40 million is an act of goodwill, then why are material benefits and exact sums of money everywhere? At the sitting of the Saeima committee, Grigorijs Krupņikovs could not answer any questions. For example, how much compensation has been paid by Germany and how much of it has been received by the Jewish people in Latvia? This is a moral question: can I be compensated twice for the same offense?
The second legal problem, which Andris Grūtups once pointed out: exceptions must not be made on the basis of ethnic principle and property must not be returned to those to whom it has never belonged. More so when based on some mystical, moral considerations. There are various Jewish organizations in Latvia, including the Association Shamir and the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia, the majority of which are Jewish people who arrived from the USSR. This community was represented at the sitting of the Saeima committee by Dmitrijs Krupņikovs. Opinions of these organizations have often been opposing... I wonder why compensation should be given to the communists who came from the USSR? In addition, the annotation of the law includes some 48 million euros, which are said to have been calculated in detail.
In 2011, there was less than 32 million. A couple of weeks ago - 40 million. Now it's already 48 million? Appetite comes with eating...
When we asked the committee to show those calculations, it turned out that there are none. I was surprised by the irresponsibility with which the issue was considered in the committee under the leadership of the chairman of the committee Mārtiņš Bondars.
Do you know of the current government's discussions with the Jewish community, specifically on compensation?
Discussions have been taking place on a regular basis since the time of the Supreme Council. At one time there was a Jewish cultural society to which the state already granted a number of properties. I have chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Saeima and, while I was in the United States, I have also heard representatives of Jewish organizations asking why Jewish people are not given back their property, not knowing that Latvia has one of the most liberal restitution laws in Europe and that only Jewish people who came to Latvia during Soviet occupation have problems.
It is not clear what connection they have to the property of Latvian Jewish people, especially Arkādijs Suharenko, the head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia, who also came to Latvia from the USSR?
You ask him that yourself. But I want to talk about the irresponsibility of politicians. If there is indeed a law on compensation, then it should be done in a certain way. It should be remembered that the property was confiscated from all minorities - Polish, Russian, Baltic Germans, Estonian, Lithuanian and other public organizations, even before the Soviet occupation. For example, about 50,000 Baltic Germans left Latvia, but 10,000 remained in Latvia. Let us remember that in 1930 the Dome Church was taken away from the German congregation, in 1935 the German trade unions of Riga (the Big and Small Guilds) were closed, but their property was confiscated.
The 30 million lats owned by the Baltic Germans remained in Latvian banks, and they did not receive any compensation for their property when they were forced to emigrate in the second wave during the Soviet occupation. They were each allowed to take only 50 lats, the rest of the money was confiscated. So what now - let's gather a billion euros or so and start paying all ethnic groups! We have to pay everyone or no one.
Did the committee talk about the sums that have already been paid to the Jewish community, namely educational institutions and museums, over the last 30 years?
I asked about it. Every year a large amount goes there, in the millions. Should they be deducted from the 40 million euros asked by them? No one knew the answer. So how can such false draft laws be created in which everyone can play with taxpayers' money as they wish? This is not some sort of a law on historic lands submitted by the Office of the President.
Andris Teikmanis, the head of the President's Chancellery, had come to the meeting of the committee, who said something about the need to return the money...
I have also not asked ZZS why they supported the forwarding of such a draft law to the Saeima at the committee meeting, even though before they voted against it. Likewise, JKP - MPs of this faction also voted for the referral to the Saeima.
Apparently, Development/For! has talked to the ZZS and the JKP, forcing them to vote to refer the question on 40 million to the Saeima. But they have not spoken to the NA. They probably received a donation... This "coalition" sure is interesting.
I will repeat: no joint sitting, no faction sitting has discussed the re-submission of such an already rejected draft law to the Saeima. Going behind people's backs like that is dishonorable.
Firstly, Development/For! has created a deliberate political crisis. Secondly, if such a law passes through the Saeima, then it is necessary to consider whether the National Alliance should be in such a coalition. This is a political issue that implicitly acknowledges that the evil Latvian state has benefited from Jewish property, but some select people have not. They are absolute lies.
Maybe it's the pressure of Rietumu banka? After all, Suharenko is the vice-chairman of the bank's board.
Should it be called pressure or donations to organizations related to politicians... What is written on the shirts of the sports club VEF Rīga? They say Rietumu banka... In the Budget Committee, when deciding on various small amounts, we demand justifications for payments. But in this case - deciding on 40 million euros - there is no justification documentation, nor a list of properties, nothing. This would be the third time of compulsory compensation. Then come the fourth, fifth...
Did the other Members not ask any questions at this committee meeting?
No, none. But what if the State Audit Office asks: how much do those properties cost? Maybe not 40, but only 15 million? But in reality, the question is not about the amount of money, but about the corruption of Latvian politicians. It is clear political prostitution: to support the giving of this 40 million. This will further divide society. How will the people who were deported to Siberia and who lost their property view it? Not to mention those who lost their lives there... What will Latvians think of the Jewish community? Will a wave of anti-Semitism rise?
In an interview with Neatkarīgā, lawyer Andris Grūtups once said: “Everything is based on the Civil Law. If there are no heirs, the property is returned to the state. Why should heirs be sorted? If a Latvian dies and he has no heirs, then it is clear that the property goes to the state. If a Jewish person dies and he has no heirs, must his property be returned to some mystical community? Which country has such laws? It can be called ethnic segregation."
It gets even crazier. The liberal law on the return of property adopted in the early 1990s allowed each "heir" who came from Russia to recover it, justifying his desire to inherit something by basically presenting a hand-written text on a sheet of paper that says, "Тетя Клава написала, что ее дедушка был собственником пятиэтажного дома на улице Стабу”(Aunt Klava wrote that her grandfather was the owner of a five-story house on Stabu Street - in Russian).
And now this, to put it mildly, special draft law of Bondars will be submitted to the Saeima for a vote?
Yes. Without looking at it again in committee. Bondars said he would correct the mistakes himself.
So, it turns out that this Bondars' law will be in clear conflict with the Civil Law.
And should we all now feel like some innocent culprits? All that remains is to quote Andris Grūtups: “There are people who constantly talk about Latvians' guilt in the Holocaust. Of course, I do not deny that there were a handful of Latvians involved in the Holocaust, but in that case, we must look the truth straight in the eye, and I am talking about the deportations of June 14, 1941, which are known to have taken place before the war and before the Holocaust. At that time, a disproportionate number of Jewish people participated in the deportation of Latvians. Stunned by left-wing propaganda, many of the Jewish people entered the workers' guard, worked in various repressive institutions, Cheka, the militia. And they were almost 10,000 Jewish people. There were also a thousand Jewish people among the deportees, which means that the Jewish people also repressed their own. Maybe now let us calculate our losses and demand that Israel or the US Jewish community pay them? About 70% of those deported in 1941 died. I am simply surprised by the cowardly discussions of Latvian officials on this issue of compensation, but these officials could have simply said one thing: for everyone to whom the property had to be returned, it was given back, so stop coming here and knocking on our door!”
Nothing seems to have changed in the last ten years. But you should also remember the following statement by Grūtups: “There are things that should not be traded under any circumstances. People's history and national self-confidence must not be traded." And that's that.