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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05VILNIUS283 2005-03-17 13:50:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
Cable title:  

RABBI BAKER PRESSES FOR RESTITUTION RESULTS

Tags:   PGOV KNAR SOCI PHUM OVIP LH 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000283 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/NB AND EUR/OHI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/07/2014
TAGS: PGOV KNAR SOCI PHUM OVIP LH
SUBJECT: RABBI BAKER PRESSES FOR RESTITUTION RESULTS

REF: 04 VILNIUS 1292

Classified By: POL/ECON OFFICER GREGORY L. BERNSTEEN FOR REASONS 1.4 (b
) and (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: The Lithuanian Government and political
leaders reaffirmed their commitment to restitution of Jewish
communal property during a series of meetings with visiting
American Jewish Committee official Rabbi Andrew Baker March
7-8. Paving the way for Baker's visit, the local Jewish
community submitted to the Ministry of Justice a "final" list
of 438 restitutable properties. The Government expects to
complete archival research on the list during the summer of
2005 and to introduce legislation authorizing restitution in
the fall. The process to establish the foundation that will
administer restituted properties and associated monies has
been completed, despite attempts by some Jewish community
groups to delay or derail it. END SUMMARY.

The "Final" List of Properties for Restitution? Almost...


--------------------------



--------------------------





2. (C) American Jewish Committee official Rabbi Andrew Baker
assured PM Algirdas Brazauskas and opposition Conservative
party leader Andrius Kubilius that the list of properties the
Jewish community submitted to the MOJ on March 4 was "for all
intents and purposes a final" and comprehensive list of
former Jewish communal properties with extant buildings.
Baker did not rule out the possibility that during the "next
week, next month or next year" one or two additional
properties would turn up, but suggested additions to the list
would be few. The "final" list of 438 properties comprises
172 previously submitted to the GOL and 266 new properties.
Brazauskas commented that the GOL would need at least six
months to research the new properties and authenticate the
claim.



3. (C) Baker pressed both Brazauskas and Justice Minister
Gintautas Buzinksas, in separate meetings, for a restitution
timeline. Brazauskas estimated that the Government would
complete the research and valuation of properties by
September. With an estimate of the total cost of restitution
then in hand, the MOJ would submit draft legislation to the
Parliament (Seimas) to modify the restitution law and allow
restitution to begin. Brazauskas opined that passing this
legislation entirely depended on the Seimas, but could
possibly take two years.



4. (C) Kubilius and MP Emmanuelis Zingeris told Baker it
would be important to push the legislation through as quickly
as possible to prevent it from becoming an issue in municipal
elections, and assured Baker of their full support for the
restitution process. Recalling Lithuania's post-independence
privatization process, whose results failed all interested
parties, Kubilius expressed concerns about the management of
the resources of the foundation responsible for restitution
funds, cautioning that the foundation's eventual large
endowment could be a temptation for abuse. Baker pledged
that the foundation would operate in an open, transparent and
inclusive manner. He stated that the board would deal fairly
with tenants or residents in restituted property. Baker said
that the board would use rental income and sales proceeds to
support all bona fide Jewish communal activities and some
needy Holocaust survivors. Making implicit reference to
claims that the composition of the foundation's board did not
adequately represent all sectors of the Jewish community,
Baker assured that the board would distribute funds to
applicants regardless of whether the group requesting funding
has a representative on the board.


Registering the Foundation: Why So Hard?


--------------------------




5. (C) A central theme Baker raised in every meeting was the
challenge faced by the Lithuanian Jewish community to
register the foundation to administer restituted properties
and compensation. The attorney for the Lithuanian Jewish
Community began the registration process on March 2. The
attorney is required to register through a notary, who then
presents the documents to the Registration Department at the
MOJ. On March 3, the Kaunas Religious Jewish Community, a
Hasidic group not affiliated with the secular Jewish
community organizations, submitted a letter to the Notary
Association requesting that the registration of the
foundation be delayed. The Notary Association faxed this
letter to all 207 notaries in Lithuania, although their
reason for doing so is unclear. When the attorney attempted
to submit some corrected paperwork on March 4, the notary
refused to accept the documents, citing the letter.



6. (C) Buzinskas confirmed that this letter has no legal
standing and does not affect the registration of the
foundation. Buzinskas said that the Ministry would contact
the Notary Association and relay this information and
Ambassador Mull sent a letter to Buzinskas confirming this
understanding. The attorney successfully registered the
foundation on March 15.


Comment: Another Step Along the Path


--------------------------





7. (C) Baker's visit has again jump-started the slow-moving
restitution process. His presence overcame the
procrastination inside the Jewish community and motivated its
leaders to submit the updated list of properties. Baker
continues to try to find common ground between the various
factions in the community, and to bring some of the outlying
groups into the tent. If the GOL meets its commitment to
confirm the ownership of properties on the list, substantial
progress toward resolution of the restitution issue will
occur by the end of the year.
Mull