NEWS

13.7mln award for royal property

Greece yesterday hailed as a «decisive and irrevocable» end to the demands of the former monarchy a European Court of Human Rights decision awarding the former king, his sister and aunt a total of 13.7 million euros in compensation for lost property and legal costs. PM Costas Simitis, whose socialist PASOK party passed the law in 1994 stripping former King Constantine and other members of his family of their property, noted that the compensation ordered by the court in Strasbourg was paltry compared to what the former royals had wanted. The court found in November 2000 that although the law was legal, it should have allowed for compensation. It ruled yesterday that Constantine should get 12 million euros, his sister Irene 900,000 euros and their aunt Ekaterini 500,000 euros. It also awarded them jointly 500,000 euros for legal costs and expenses. The three had asked for 494 million euros in compensation for three estates, at Tatoi near Athens (where Constantine’s parents are buried), Polydendri in central Greece and Mon Repos on Corfu. «The Court observed that the compensation to be fixed did not need to reflect the idea of wiping out all the consequences of the interference in question,» an ECHR press release said. «As the lack of any compensation, rather than the inherent illegality of the taking, was the basis of the violation found, the compensation did not need necessarily to reflect the full value of the properties.» Simitis declared victory. «There is a great gap between this amount and the overweening demand for 168 billion drachmas (or 494 million euros),» he said in a televised statement. «This decision puts a decisive and irrevocable end to the demands of the former king against Greece and the Greek State,» he said. «With the payment of this sum, the Greek people move toward the decisive closing of the last loose end of the monarchy.» Constantine told Athens’s Antenna TV that he was not concerned with money. «It is a shame for any government to deprive a Greek of his home,» he said. The ruling was another step in the rocky road of the Greek monarchy which ended with a referendum in 1974. The second monarchy, of which Constantine was part, began in 1863, when a Danish prince ascended the throne as George I, King of the Hellenes. The first Greek king, formerly Prince Otto of Bavaria, was crowned in 1832 and dethroned in an army-backed revolt in 1862. Constantine’s fate also was tied to the military. He swore in a government after the military coup of April 1967 and, after leading an abortive coup of his own, fled into exile that December. The restoration of democracy in July 1974 was followed by a referendum in which two-thirds voted against the monarchy, forcing Constantine to remain in London. «I believe that the former king, who was morally and legally responsible for the legalization of the coup, has no right to compensation from the Greek people. He should be conscious of the fact that his actions caused untold harm to Greece and the Greeks,» Simitis said. «Greece will pay the compensation. Because as a member of European organizations we want the decisions of the court to be respected even if we disagree with them.» He criticized the New Democracy party which had agreed in 1992 to settle with Constantine, leaving him with some property. ND charged: «When the PASOK government passed the law, it undertook the double commitment that the country’s reputation would not be damaged and that Greece would not pay a single drachma to the former royal family. Neither happened.»