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PM: Church restitution taxation aimed to score points

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Prague, June 5 (CTK) – Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he considers the South Bohemia Region’s proposal to tax the financial compensation churches get from the state for the property not returned to them within restitution an effort to score points, he said on public Czech Television (CT) yesterday.
Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said in the Questions of Vaclav Moravec on CT the proposal submitted by the South Moravia Region headed by Jiri Zimola (CSSD) is not entirely honest.
There exists a big risk of a failure at the Constitutional Court (US), Sobotka said.
According to the law which took effect in January 2013, churches are to be returned land and real estate worth 75 billion, stolen from them by the communist regime, and given 59 billion crowns plus inflation in financial compensation for unreturned property during the following 30 years. Simultaneously, the state will gradually cease financing churches. The Catholic Church will get most of the total sum, or 47.2 billion crowns plus inflation.
Sobotka said he was surprised by the proposal and that Zimola did not inform him of it.
“I think that it is rather an effort to score election points with a proposal that I believe is not entirely honest in relation to the voters…it is most likely that it would not stand ground if it were taken to the Constitutional Court,” Sobotka said.
The regional and Senate elections will be held this autumn and a general election next year.
Zimola reacted for CTK saying he comprehends the words of Sobotka who is the prime minister, but added that Sobotka is also the chairman of the CSSD that has a revision of the church restitutions in its programme.
“It saddens me when my own chairman accuses me of pre-election rhetoric instead of praising me for fulfilling the party promises,” Zimola texted to CTK.
Sobotka said possible changes to the restitutions would require agreement with churches.
“We must respect the elementary principles of the rule of law,” Sobotka said.
The CSSD and the ANO movement of Finance Minister Andrej Babis that also criticises the existing form of the restitutions did not reach agreement on any changes in the past.
The proposal has not yet reached the Chamber of Deputies. The lower house of parliament has, however, already received a similar bill by the opposition Communists (KSCM). The government has not reached agreement on a stance on it.
Communist chairman Vojtech Filip said in the Duel discussion programme on the commercial Prima television yesterday that the state money paid to the churches are a gift and every gift is taxed.
In addition, the restitutions are overpriced, he said.
“I think that it is reviving a corpse,” Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek, chairman of the junior Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), said on Prima.
He said he hopes no bill on the taxation of the compensation will be passed. The breaching of agreements and promises threatens the government coalition, Belobradek said.
In view of the current pace of the Chamber of Deputies’ procedure, it is possible that the lawmakers would not be capable of discussing the KSCM and South Bohemian bills until the end of the current term in the autumn of 2017 at all.

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