Deputy minister: Property deals with Russia “need to be cancelled”

Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Dvořák

The government should this week consider proposals from the Foreign Ministry to terminate treaties allowing Russia free rent of land on which Russian-owned buildings stand in Czechia. The Czech side are also seeking rents paid for the use of such properties. I discussed the matter with Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Dvořák, first asking how Russia came to own dozens of properties in this country.

“To be honest, I don’t know exactly.

“But I think it is because the then Soviet Union misused the situation after the occupation of our country.

“In the 1970s they just declared some properties as their own, or said they were used for diplomatic activities, and the then Czechoslovak government just confirmed that.”

And the issue is here that the Russians own the buildings, but not the land under the buildings?

“Yes. It was a part of the declaration, or the agreement, that the land is still in the ownership of now Czechia, then Czechoslovakia, and the buildings are the property of the Russia Federation.”

It’s reported that Czechia plans to end these deals with Russia on the free rental of land on which the Russian buildings stand, and also that Czechia is seeking to recover rents from these properties. What more can you tell us about the Ministry’s proposals?

“You know, please understand that we are not very happy to share with you or the media our plans how to do the next step.

“But of course we already declared that part of these buildings are not any more accepted as diplomatic missions, which means they lose the protection of the Vienna Convention.

“As I mentioned, these agreements between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union need to be cancelled.

“Because there is some official act made by the government and the government has to declare that this is not valid any more.

“This is what we are going to do now.

“And then, once this is adopted by the government, we will continue under Czech law, meaning following the Czech rules.”

Also you will be seeking to get rents retrospectively, retroactively for recent years?

“Yes, as our laws declare, it is possible for some time in retroactivity.”

How long?

“Our law says three years.

“But once again, we are still not willing to reveal all of our plans.”

When we are likely to see some action on this from the Czech government?

“First of all, we have to wait until the Czech government will decide on this.

“I hope it is going to be this week, because there is an important anniversary this week.

“It will be kind of symbolic to do that on this day.

“But if it’s not possible to do it this week, it might be next week – it doesn’t matter.

“And then we will just follow the Czech laws.

“Because we as a government are obliged to continue with our managerial responsibility.

“We have to take care of the Czech budget and to protect our property: buildings and land.”

Just a few days ago Russia said it was terminating a treaty allowing for a Czech consulate general in Yekaterinburg. Aren’t you concerned that these moves that are planned now could cause further, tit-for-tat reprisals from the Russians?

“This is something that I take mainly as a symbolic step or gesture.

“Because in fact the consulate has already been closed since February last year.

“And we also closed two Russian consulates here in Czechia, in Karlovy Vary and Brno.

“Also we already officially closed our general consulate in St. Petersburg.

“So I don’t understand very well the symbolism of this step.

“But this is nothing more than symbolism, because the consulate is already closed, empty and not used anymore.”

Author: Ian Willoughby
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