Declaration from Joint Meeting of Government and Church
The solution proposed for the settlement of the relationship between the State and churches and religious societies stems from the Act on Atonement of Property Injustice to Churches and Religious Societies, approved by the Government in 2008 and not approved by the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament.
The Act set the value of the property that had belonged to churches and religious societies at 134 billion CZK. It suggested 51 billion CZK worth of land and property be reinstated and financial compensation for the rest, which was 83 billion CZK. The financial compensation was suggested to be paid over 60 years at an annual interest rate of 4.85 %.
The government’s suggestion was not received well by the public. Its hearing was interrupted at the Chamber of Deputies in the first reading, a Parliamentary commission was set up and it did not recommend the Act to pass. It did not come to voting because the term of the Chamber of Deputies had ended.
After the 2010 elections, a new Chamber of Deputies and Government were created. In its program platform, the Government set the target to close the matter of property settlement between the State and churches and religious societies in order to remedy the injustice done and so that churches and religious societies could fulfill their tasks independently of the State.
The Government is well aware of the necessity to solve this problem, one of the reasons being the finding of the Constitutional Court No. Pl. ÚS from 1st July 2010 that described the current state of non-existing legal regulations, which would settle the historical property of churches and religious societies, as unconstitutional.
The first step to settle this situation was the Declaration of the Agreement on the Administration of the Economic Resources of Churches and Religious Societies in 2011–2014, signed on 12th January 2011. By this agreement with churches and religious societies, the expenditures of the State for churches and religious societies were stabilized.
Another step was the creation of the Commission for the Correction of the Relation between the State and Churches and Religious Societies as an advisory body of the Government. Its task was to take a lesson from the 2008 restitution, remove errors and controversial points from the 2008 proposal, and seek a solution that will be acceptable by the entire society.
The Commission suggests the following amendments to the 2008 proposal:
1. To increase the portion of the estate to be transferred back to 56 % instead of 39 %.
- Among the property to be transferred is especially: farm land, forests, water and other areas that are owned by the State and administered by the Czech Forests Administration and the Land Fund of the Czech Republic
- Value of this property is thus increased to 75 billion CZK (if the land currently lying in military training areas will be transferred as well, the value will increase to 77 billion CZK).
2. Financial compensation: both parties are aware of the necessity to minimize its impact on the State budget.
- The compensation is reduced to 59 billion CZK (if the land currently lying in military training areas will be transferred as well, the value will be reduced to 57 billion CZK).
- Instead of fixed annual interest rate, the commission suggests considering the inflation rate.
- Time to pay the financial compensation will be reduced from 60 years to at least half (30, 20, 15 years) and the question of (non-)existence of a transitional period will be considered.
The current proposal to representatives of churches and religious societies should not be viewed otherwise than as an effort to settle a long-term problem. When creating the proposal, representatives of the State considered historical context of the problem as well as economic possibilities of the State and the political situation of the Czech society.
The proposal tries to settle the problem at both legislative and economical levels, it minimizes impact on the Czech budget, and it is considered decent by churches and religious societies. The effort to settle the problem is regarded as acceptable by both parties, especially at the economical level.
Prague, 30th May 2011