Warsaw mayor under pressure over restitution controversy

Warsaw mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz brushed off calls to for her to resign over a restitution controversy during a heated session of the city council on Thursday.

Amid cries of “resign!” and jeers from critics, many of them brandishing placards, Gronkiewicz-Waltz insisted she was not to blame in a scandal over the return of a prime parcel of land in the heart of Warsaw.

The controversy highlights the thorny problem of the restitution of property seized under the October 1945 Bierut Decree, named after former Polish communist leader Bolesław Bierut, which legalised the confiscation of plots of private land in the capital.

A special team of prosecutors is now to probe decisions taken in restitution cases in Warsaw following the collapse of communism in 1989.

Gronkiewicz-Waltz said on Thursday that a law from 2015 partially addressing the issue of restitution was a success for her “team at City Hall” and the former governing coalition comprising the Civic Platform and the Polish People’s Party, which are now in opposition.

Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Warsaw mayor since 2006, is a leading light in the Civic Platform.

Last week the mayor announced that City Hall was firing three staff over the restitution of a prime plot of land on Chmielna street in central Warsaw.

Gronkiewicz-Waltz said that the decision to transfer the plot was “hastily taken” and that the three officials involved did not consider “all of the circumstances of the case”.

The former owner of the land was reportedly a Danish citizen.

In the 1950s, communist-era Poland paid Denmark, as well as other countries, for property seized under the Bierut Decree.

This essentially means that Danish nationals cannot demand any compensation from the present-day Polish government.

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