European court approves state's property seizure
30 June 2005, STRASBOURG/BERLIN - The final chapter of a long-running saga over property seizures linked to East Germany was closed Thursday by a European court ruling that Berlin had not violated any laws by taking land from private owners in the early 1990s.
30 June 2005
STRASBOURG/BERLIN - The final chapter of a long-running saga over property seizures linked to East Germany was closed Thursday by a European court ruling that Berlin had not violated any laws by taking land from private owners in the early 1990s.
The decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) - which overturns a lower court ruling - comes as a big relief to the German state which would have had to pay over EUR 1 billion to 70,000 former owners if it had lost the case.
Properties were seized by former German chancellor Helmut Kohl's government, after the 1990 reunification, from east Germans who had been given the mainly small parcels of fields and forest land by communist functionaries in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
About 100,000 hectares (270,000 acres) taken by the Kohl government is covered by the court ruling.
East Germany's last communist transitional government in 1990 had confirmed the legal basis of the land holdings but Kohl nevertheless claimed the property and his government refused to pay compensation.
The ECHR's highest chamber ruled against five former owners who had been seeking return of their property. A lower ECHR court had last year ruled in favour of the five former owners.
Thursday's ECHR ruling cannot be appealed.
Earlier this year the ECHR also ruled in favour of the German government in a far bigger property dispute dating back to communist seizures in eastern Germany from 1945 to 1949.
The Kohl government refused to return to former owners about 3.3 million hectares of land taken over by the communists after Nazi Germany's defeat. The properties included huge aristocratic estates and major industrial and bank holdings.
Berlin has been selling off the land over the past 15 years and keeping the revenue with a symbolic payment of less then 5 per cent of market value planned to be paid to former owners in coming years.
The ECHR ruled last March that the German state was not required to pay any further compensation to former owners.
Subject: German news