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EU Enlargement

House of Lords written question – answered on 3rd November 2014.

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Photo of Lord Ashcroft Lord Ashcroft Conservative

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the process of accession of further countries from the former Yugoslavia to the European Union, any steps are being taken to ensure that British citizens are compensated for any deprivation of property during the Tito era.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State

The accession process of countries from the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the European Union does not involve steps specifically aimed at ensuring that British citizens are compensated for any deprivation of property during the Tito era. However the criteria for EU accession for candidate countries do include a requirement to implement measures to ensure that the rule of law is firmly embedded within the judicial and political system. This includes respect for private property, and we note that the European Commission has highlighted specifically the need for progress on restitution of property in its most recent annual enlargement Progress Reports on the Western Balkans countries published on 8 October. Furthermore, all Western Balkan countries have ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, the First Protocol of which enshrines the principle of respect for private property.

Some Western Balkans countries have, in recent years, made progress on the restitution of private property. Serbia invited applications for restitution and received 75,000 of them. Montenegro and Albania have been slower to implement their legislation on restitution, as highlighted in successive annual country Progress Reports by the European Commission. In 2012, the Commission recognised progress regarding restitution of property in Macedonia seized under the former Yugoslav Communist regime, despite administrative and judicial delays. In May, Albania (which was not part of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) submitted an action plan to the Council of Europe, aiming to create, by June 2015, an effective mechanism to enforce decisions on restitution of, or compensation for, property nationalised during the Communist regime. The Kosovo Property Claims Commission and Kosovo Property Agency continue to resolve outstanding private property disputes resulting from the 1998-99 armed conflict. Over 40,000 claims have been decided. Bosnia and Herzegovina has made no progress on restitution of private property in the last four years. Despite earlier attempts to enact a legal framework, there is none in place.

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