United States Senate - Report from the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations
NATO ACCESSION OF POLAND, HUNGARY, AND THE CZECH REPUBLIC
March 6, 1998
Mr. Helms, from the Committee on Foreign Relations, submitted the following Report:
"...Some issues, however, have come to the attention of the Committee where a deeper and continuing commitment to these principles is necessary, not only in order to qualify for NATO membership, but to complete a process of transformation from the communist era.
The Committee is concerned about the inability of some American citizens to receive fair and appropriate compensation for their property in the Czech Republic that was confiscated by the Nazi or communist regimes.
In 1928, the United States entered into a bilateral treaty with Czechoslovakia that stated that if a citizen of one country became a citizen of the other country, the individual automatically would lose his or her primary citizenship. The terms of the treaty were not applicable in periods of hostilities. The Czech government interpreted this ?time of war? provision to include the period of 1938-58.
During 1990-91, the Czech government enacted a series of laws limiting restitution and compensation for individuals whose property had been confiscated under Nazi and communist rule (1938-89) if they were citizens and residents of the Czech Republic.
In 1994, the Czech Supreme Court ruled that the permanent residency requirement was unconstitutional and required the government to allow for the filing of claims of all individuals who still had their Czech citizenship, regardless of where they lived. Czechs in France, Germany, and elsewhere were eligible to pursue their claims, but American citizens were told they were no longer Czech citizens under the terms of the 1928 treaty. American citizens who had fled the Czech Republic during the ?time of war? period were not affected due to the treaty terms, but those who became American citizens after 1958 are unable to pursue their claims.
The Czech law that applies to compensation is not discriminatory by nature, but its compensation rules are impeding the ability of American citizens to receive fair and adequate compensation for their property. The Committee strongly urges the Government of the Czech Republic--as part of its continuing effort to build a sound civil society based upon the principle of justice-- to work closely with those whose property was unjustly confiscated either by Nazi or communist regimes....
The Committee also notes the necessity for countries in Europe fully to account for, and fairly to compensate, surviving victims of the Holocaust or their beneficiaries. Such accounting and compensation must include payment of pre-war insurance claims and the return of, or remuneration for, property seized by the Nazis and later confiscated by the communist regimes in the region.
The Committee strongly encourages Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and all other countries in Europe promptly to take steps to resolve fully the issue of rightful ownership of assets."