Romania’s Ponta Avoids No-Confidence Vote Over Restitution Law

Romanian opposition failed to win backing for a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s four-month-old Cabinet over a property-restitution law demanded by the European Court of Human Rights.

The Democrat-Liberals plan to challenge the bill at the Constitutional Court, party head Vasile Blaga said today. The government wants the legislation in force by May 12 to meet a deadline set by the Strasbourg-based rights court and stave off claims the budget can’t fulfill, according to Ponta.

“The fact the opposition didn’t file a no-confidence motion shows they don’t have a better version for the law,” Ponta told reporters in Bucharest. “Their challenge to the court is the most irresponsible political gesture of the last 23 years because the deadline to have the law in force is very tight and we don’t have the resources to start paying the claims.”

To compensate citizens for communist-era property seizures, Romania has set up Fondul Proprietatea SA (FP), which owns shares in the country’s biggest companies, including OMV Petrom SA. (SNP) Still, it continues to face lawsuits in Strasbourg from people who missed out on damage payments. The court agreed to extend by as much as a month an April 12 deadline by which Romania should pass a bill to help resolve the claims.

Budget Effect

The Cabinet, which counts on a two-thirds majority in the 587-seat parliament, is trying to spread the settlement of about 8 billion euros ($10.5 billion) of claims to limit the impact on the budget. It plans to return most of the property in the coming years so the budget won’t be affected before 2017, when seven years of cash payments will start, Minister Delegate for Budget Liviu Voinea said March 14.

To enter into force, the restitution law must also get the backing of President Traian Basescu.

Romania has settled about 5 billion euros of claims since communism fell, according to official data. It’s also returned about 9,000 buildings to claimants and more than 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres) of land, the government has said. The eastern European country plans to keep the budget deficit at less than 3 percent of economic output to meet pledges to the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net;

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