European Parliament supports efforts for property restitution

BRUSSELS — The European Parliament has called on Central and Eastern European countries to restore to their rightful owners all properties that were seized by the Nazis during World War II and by Communist regimes in the years following the conflict.

The resolution, which was adopted last week by the legislative body of the European Union, came only days after the Executive Commission, the union's executive arm, issued its first-ever communiqué on racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

The communiqué called for a united front in Europe against racial hatred.

The European Parliament's resolution, adopted Dec. 14 in a vote of 87-67 with three abstentions, is an appeal to the European governments to act quickly on the restitution issue.

The appeal may have added weight with those governments because they are eager to join the European Union, said sources with the European Parliament.

In September, at a conference sponsored by the World Jewish Congress that was held at the European Parliament's headquarters in Brussels, WJC President Edgar Bronfman urged the European Union to follow the lead of the United States and support the WJC campaign to recover Jewish property in Eastern and Central Europe.

Along with Jewish property rights, the parliamentary resolution addressed the rights of churches, many of which are on property that was seized by Communist authorities.

The communiqué said the "right to equal treatment and freedom from discrimination is one of the core principles inspiring" all European Union "policies, and the rise of racist and xenophobic attitudes clearly runs counter to this."

The communiqué was accompanied by a proposal to the European Union Council of Ministers to designate 1997 as the "European Year Against Racism."