Liechtenstein demanded that the Czech Republic return the land and property confiscated after World War II, including a couple of princely castles. The authorities of the dwarf state filed a corresponding complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, where they expect to prove the illegality of the decrees of Czechoslovak President Edward Benesh. Prague does not intend to return territory 10 times the size of the Principality itself within its current borders, but hopes that the relationship between the two countries will not suffer.
The petition challenges the legality of confiscation of property from the population of Czechoslovakia (among which in the pre-war period and during World War II there were many representatives of the aristocracy of Liechtenstein) on the basis of the so-called Benesh decrees – acts adopted by the President of Czechoslovakia Edward Benesh in 1945 and ratified a year later. The complaint of Vaduz states that the Respondent State “classified the citizens of Liechtenstein as persons with German citizenship in order to apply the decrees of the President of the Republic”, which allowed “confiscation of property belonging to all ethnic Germans and Hungarians”.
According to the plaintiff, such expropriation of property violates several paragraphs of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, including provisions on fair trial, respect for private and family life, and prohibition of discrimination.
The Czech Foreign Ministry promptly made it clear that they were not going to take up Vaduz’s case and generally hoped that the court in Strasbourg would reject the complaint. Martin Smolek, the deputy head of the diplomatic department, said, in particular, that the ECtHR could not consider the case because the Convention on Human Rights was adopted after the events in question.
Diplomatic relations between the Czech Republic and Liechtenstein were established only in 2009. Normalization of the situation, as it is not difficult to understand, was hindered by the same issue of restitution of property.
Revision of existing borders and any other significant parameters of statehood is a very long and multi-stage process. An example of this is the dispute on geographical names, which lasted at least 30 years and involved Greece and Macedonia for several years (the last one officially became Northern Macedonia in February last year). Another case is when it comes to the return of property that was unjustly seized during and after World War II from individuals.