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Cablegate: Pm Kaczynski Aims to Pass Restitution Law in 2007

VZCZCXRO1809
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHWR #0498/01 0601442
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 011442Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY WARSAW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3384
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 1477
RUEHKW/AMCONSUL KRAKOW PRIORITY 1599

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 WARSAW 000498

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

EUR/NCE FOR PUTNEY
EUR/OHI FOR KENNEDY AND BECKER
DRL/SEAS FOR RICKMAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL PL
SUBJECT: PM KACZYNSKI AIMS TO PASS RESTITUTION LAW IN 2007

WARSAW 00000498 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY The Conference on Jewish Material Claims
Against Germany (the Conference) held its annual meeting in
Warsaw from February 26-28, in part to press the GOP for
passage of a law for restitution or compensation for property
taken by the Nazi and Communist regimes. In meetings with
the group, PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Sejm Speaker Marek Jurek
stated their desire to enact legislation soon and pledged
their support. Both reinforced that 15% compensation is the
practical budgetary limit. The PM's comments during the
meeting, and especially his public statement committing to
fully support passage of legislation are the first signs of
real GOP commitment to restitution, and represent a positive
shift in the GOP position. END SUMMARY

2. (U) The Jewish Claims Conference held its annual meeting
in Warsaw from February 26-28. The meeting was aimed at
pressing the GOP to pass legislation to provide restitution
or financial compensation for property confiscated by the
Nazis and communist government. Poland is the last major
country in Eastern and Central Europe not to have passed a
private restitution law. The GOP estimates that over 80% of
potential claimants would be non-Jews, so Poland is the first
country in which the Conference is actively reaching out to
non-Jewish groups in lobbying efforts. On February 28,
fifteen members of the Claims Conference delegation,
accompanied by Ambassador and Poloff, held separate meetings
with PM Kaczynski, Sejm Speaker Jurek, and Treasury Ministry
Director Skuprownik.

3. (U) The Conference advocated four points during the
meetings: 1) The GOP has a moral obligation to quickly pass
a restitution law, as many victims are in their 80s; 2) the
procedure to file a claim should be inexpensive and
uncomplicated; 3) the amount of compensation should be much
higher than the 15% of property value contained in the
proposed legislation; and 4) the legislation should treat all
claimants equally regardless of religion or residency of the
claimant, i.e., Jews and non-Jews, current Polish citizens
and former citizens now living abroad.

4. (SBU) Sejm Speaker Jurek stated his desire to steer
legislation to completion this year and that he too believes
that restitution is a matter of morality and justice. He
repeated this in a press release following the meeting. He
emphasized the GOP's position that 15% restitution is the
practical budgetary limit. Ministry of Treasury Director
Skuprownik noted that the GOP has already set aside 2 Billion
zloty (over $625 million) to fund eventual claims. The
latest amendment to the existing bill will be made public on
Monday, March 5, and then debated in the Inter-Ministerial
Committee.

5. (SBU) PM Kaczynski, who spent an hour with the group,
remarked that this was Poland's twelfth attempt at passing
restitution legislation, and said he would do all he could to
get the law passed in 2007. He publicly reiterated this in a
press release shortly after the meeting. He also reinforced
that 15% is the maximum possible. Ambassador urged the PM to
do what he could to expedite passage of a law and urged that
any claim mechanism be streamlined.

6. (U) The meeting received widespread coverage in the local
and international media. While there were some exaggerated
descriptions of the group's intents, the mainstream media
generally focused on the facts. They also highlighted an
event the Conference held to honor Polish Gentiles who had
rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Some right-wing groups
played the nationalist card, although they represent a small
minority. The ultra-nationalistic Polish National Movement
organized demonstrations in front of the American and Israeli
Embassies and Presidential Palace. Fewer than ten people
showed up with signs saying "Who Supported Hitler's Banks?"
and "Elders of Zion--Not in Poland." In a similarly small
gesture, as the delegation left the meeting at the Sejm, a
single protester waved a large sign that accused the Jewish
group of being "Vampires."

7. (SBU) During the meeting with the PM, one of the Claims
Conference members raised the issue of Euro MP Maciej
Giertych's recently published anti-Semitic booklet. The PM
responded by instructing the group not to confuse Maciej
Giertych with his son, Education Minister Roman Giertych, who
he called "mainstream" and reflective of the attitude of
modern Poland. He did not mention the statement his brother,
President Lech Kaczynski, issued last week expressing shock
at the booklet.

WARSAW 00000498 002.2 OF 002

8. (SBU) COMMENT: The Embassy urged Conference
representatives to approach the GOP in a constructive manner,
and the group did so, with many expressing a continuing
emotional attachment to Poland. The PM's comments during the
meeting, especially his public statement committing to full
support of the legislation, are critical to any chance of the
parliament to enact this law in 2007. PM Kaczynski is the
key player in moving the legislation forward, and his
statements reflect a greater willingness to address this
matter seriously. While many Jewish groups are not satisfied
with the proposed 15% level of compensation (the Conference
President publicly demanded 100% restitution), it may be the
best deal that can be achieved with the GOP.
ASHE

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