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President signs law limiting restitution of property in Warsaw

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Polish President Andrzej Duda has signed into law new rules that will limit the return of property seized in Warsaw during the communist era to its original owners. The new law concerns property which was seized in October 1945 under the so-called Bierut Decree, named after the former Polish communist leader Bolesław Bierut.

An estimated 20,000-24,000 private buildings were taken from their owners, in practice without any compensation.

Since the fall of communism in Poland in 1989 it has been possible to submit claims for the return of such confiscated property.

Under the new law, Warsaw authorities will be able to refuse the return of land if it is now being used for a public purpose, such as a school. Claims to buildings which were more than 66% destroyed after World War II can also be refused.

Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz commented: “On behalf of Warsaw I would like to thank the president for signing this restitution Act.”

Her spokeswoman Agnieszka Kłąb added: “This is very good news; the legislation will, as soon as it comes into force, enable us to protect public land and buildings, including schools and nurseries, from claims.”

Although the legislation was passed by the previous parliament last year, the then-President Bronisław Komorowski sent it to the Constitutional Tribunal in August 2015.

The Tribunal has since ruled that the legislation is constitutional.

Since 2003 Warsaw has returned almost 2,500 properties to former owners or their descendants. It is thought that there are currently 2,600 ongoing legal claims.

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