Viewing cable 05VILNIUS1222
Title: GOL AGREES TO JEWISH COMMUNAL PROPERTY RESTITUTION

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05VILNIUS12222005-11-18 15:16:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 001222 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/NB AND EUR/OHI 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/17/2015 
TAGS: PREL PGOV KNAR SOCI PHUM LH
SUBJECT: GOL AGREES TO JEWISH COMMUNAL PROPERTY RESTITUTION 
TEXT 
 
REF: VILNIUS 283 AND PREVIOUS 
 
Classified By: Pol/Econ Officer Gregory L. Bernsteen for reasons 1.4(b) 
 and (d) 
 
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The GOL's Ministry of Justice and 
representatives of the Jewish community, with our prodding, 
have agreed on the substance and text of an amended law 
authorizing communal property restitution.  The law will 
establish a payment schedule for monetary restitution to the 
local Jewish community beginning in 2009, and will designate 
a foundation as the sole recipient and custodian of the 
funds.  The draft legislation is circulating through the 
intergovernmental review process and should reach the floor 
of parliament early in 2006.  Although the draft legislation 
could run afoul of Lithuania's tempestuous internal political 
scene, the ruling coalition and most of the opposition have 
for now endorsed its passage.  END SUMMARY. 
 
¶2. (SBU) Negotiations between the Lithuanian government and 
the local and international Jewish communities over 
restitution for Jewish communal property (schools, clinics, 
libraries, community centers, etc.) have been continuing for 
more than two years.  In September, Ambassador Mull met with 
senior Justice Ministry officials to urge expedited 
consideration of the draft legislation required for such 
restitution in order to submit it to the Parliament before 
the end of 2005.  The ministry intensified its discussions 
with the Jewish community, but as of early November, the 
Jewish community complained that the Ministry was still 
clinging to language in the draft legislation that seemed to 
prejudice an equitable restitution process. 
 
¶3. (SBU) The Embassy responded with intensified contacts on 
both sides to facilitate agreement, and on November 8,  Algis 
Balenzentis, head of the Justice Ministry's Legal Department, 
told us that the Government had reached agreement with the 
official Lithuanian Jewish Community on the language. 
Balenzentis dispelled concerns of the Lithuanian Jewish 
Community that the GOL had introduced language into the draft 
amendment that would provide for wider distribution of monies 
and properties resulting from the restitution process than 
previously agreed.  The MOJ, he said, had adopted language 
the Jewish Community had proposed to establish a joint 
GOL-Jewish Community foundation as the exclusive recipient of 
restitution funds and property. 
 
¶4. (SBU) Eugenija Sutkiene, attorney for the Jewish Community 
(which, prior to our notification, had not heard that the 
Government had accepted their text) met with Balenzentis 
November 16 to confirm the terms of the amendment.  Sutkiene 
subsequently told us that, per prior agreement, the proposed 
law would establish a schedule for payments of compensation 
for unrestitutable properties to begin in 2009 and continue 
for ten years.  Sutkiene said that the MOJ is awaiting 
Ministry of Finance approval of this compensation schedule in 
order to finalize the draft text and circulate it to other 
ministries for their comment.  Ministries will then have up 
to a month to submit comments, after which the MOJ will 
submit the draft text to the parliament for consideration. 
 
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Comment 
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¶5. (U) Conclusion of lengthy and difficult negotiations puts 
Lithuania on the brink of initiating the communal property 
restitution process for Lithuania's Jewish Community.  This 
long-overdue development will restore some dignity to the 
small, relatively poor survivors of Lithuania's once vibrant 
Jewish Community.  It will also mark an important step in 
Lithuania's path toward addressing its Holocaust legacy and 
providing just recompense. 
 
¶6. (SBU) The legislation must receive parliamentary and 
Finance Ministry approval, however, before the celebrations 
can begin.  The timetable for introducing the amendment is 
not, unfortunately, optimal.  Even if the Ministry of Finance 
blesses the arrangement and the GOL manages to submit the law 
in early 2006, the bill will have to pass through several 
committees before reaching the plenary for consideration. 
The tenuous status of PM Brazauskas (septel), whom many see 
as the prime mover and supporter of Jewish property 
restitution, is another potential difficulty.  His early 
departure from office could leave the restitution amendment 
without a strong advocate.  Nevertheless, a solid majority of 
the current governing coalition and a large portion of the 
opposition have signaled to us their intent to support 
passage. 
 
¶7. (C) We will continue to champion the restitution process, 
acting as an intermediary when necessary to facilitate 
progress between the various interested parties. 
MULL