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Minister: Estonia alleviating injustice to churches caused by occupation

St. Alexander's Church (Orthodox) in Tartu was consecrated in 1915.
St. Alexander's Church (Orthodox) in Tartu was consecrated in 1915. Source: (Aili Sarapik/ERR)

Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu (IRL) does not agree with criticism that by deciding late last year to give churches operating in the country a total of €8.2 million, Estonia has begun compensating for damages caused by occupiers. Rather, he said, the money is to alleviate injustices caused during the occupation.

"Such a construction is inconceivable that an occupied country will cover for damages caused by the occupation," Reinsalu said at the government press conference on Thursday. "The government's decision was based on the opposite principle — the restitution principle."

According to the minister, the context in which the government made these decisions is that the government changed the system of paying out means from the ownership reform reserve fund according to which it was possible to pay support to churches to make up for injustices caused by last century's occupation and war.

The Principles of Ownership Reform Act and other laws stipulate making up for injustices caused by the occupation, Reinsalu said, adding that the aggressor is still responsible for damages caused by it.

Reinsalu also pointed out that following the War of Independence, churches purchased state bonds, which means that they loaned money to the state, but due to the occupation, these bonds were never bought back. Although there is no legal obligation to pay back the money now, it was a moral obligation which the state has since fulfilled.

The Estonian government on Dec. 28 decided to support churches operating in Estonia with €8.2 million, €6.8 million of which will go to the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) and €1.4 million of which will go to the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (EAOK).

In connection with the allocation, the churches will abandon their other material claims, Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center) said at the government press conference that day.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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