THE FIRST Robert Fico government expropriated land in a manner at odds with the Slovak constitution in order to accelerate highway construction. After the Constitutional Court ruled the related legislation unconstitutional, thousands of land owners had the chance to apply for damages by the end of February. However, only a few did so, Slovak media reported.
Out of the total 7,202 damaged land owners, only 17 asked the National Highway Company (NDS) for damages, the Pravda daily wrote on March 2. Out of these, NDS assessed six applications as unjustified.
“We will know the aggregate damages [to be paid out] after expert opinions are elaborated,” Marcel Jánošík, the NDS spokesperson said as cited by the daily, specifying that the final sum would depend on the acreage of the land taken, the time that elapsed between issuing the construction permit and signing the contract, the position of land and other factors.
Those land owners who did not ask for damages have lost the title for money. Richard Drutarovský from the civic initiative For Fair Expropriation believes that most of the affected people were not aware of the possibility of requiring damages and that there was a deadline for doing so.
“The ministry actually did not conduct any campaign, even though as the submitter of the legal norm enabling taking over private land without payment of redemption, has at least a moral duty to do so,” Drutarovský believes. “Also there was no barrier preventing the ministry from addressing the known owners and reminding them about the possibility to require damages.”
Another problem is that many land owners with divided co-ownership encountered bureaucratic obstacles or exorbitant costs for proving the title for damages, and thus the possible income from damages is uncertain, according to Drutarovský.
The original expropriation law affected almost 48,000 people, out of which the state has failed to come to terms with 7,200. In spite of this, construction on their land commenced. Most of the affected people owned plots close to the dual carriageway R1 between Tekovské Nemce and Nitra, but this issue also affects stretches of the D1, D2, and D3 highways and the R4 dual carriageway.
Drutarovský believes that the deadline for applying for damages should be postponed and the contractor should be obliged to communicate with the damaged landowners more actively.
11. Mar 2013 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff