Dispossessed Say Compensation Is Too Low

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's dispossessed property owners have hit out at a government scheme for only partial return of real estate seized by the state before the fall of communism in 1989.

They said Friday the legislative proposals, which envisage the return of only 50 percent of the value of confiscated assets, were unacceptable.

"The government's draft law sanctions lawlessness. It is, in fact, a robbery," said Tadeusz Koss of the Real Estate Owners Union, who also serves as a parliamentary expert.

The government approved the bill Thursday after lowering the value of assets to be returned to 50 percent from an earlier proposed 60 percent.

It said the state could not afford to return more.

Koss said he believed the government bill was unconstitutional, because it treated former property owners as "second-class citizens."

"For example, the Roman Catholic Church and the Solidarity trade union have had their former property fully returned. People who had their property returned at a court verdict also received 100 percent of the value," Koss said.

He said the final shape of the long-debated property reparations law would probably disappoint hundreds of thousands of former owners.

"All social groups are paying the price for five decades of communism. Former owners cannot be exempted," added Andrzej Potocki, spokesman for the liberal Freedom Union party, the government's smallest faction.