Restitution of forest property in the Czech Republic and Slovakia – common beginnings with different outcomes?

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Abstract

Restitution of private land ownership has been a major undertaking influencing the forest sector in many post-communist countries. The Czech Republic and Slovakia are typical representatives of the countries where major societal changes have taken place since the fall of communism in 1989, including the restitution process of the nationalized property. The aim of this article is to analyse the process of the forest land restitution with the emphasis on common and different features between the two countries. Based on a critical evaluation of published reports, articles and valid legislation, the course of the restitution process and its current state and situation in the Czech Republic and Slovakia are described. The restitution of the property collectivized by the communist regime, including forest property, was enabled by the federal law in both countries. Even after their split in 1993 the restitution process unfolded in a similar way in both states, with the notable exception of church property in the Czech Republic. Unlike Slovakia, a country with high religious predominance, where the church property restitution was resolved almost immediately, in the Czech Republic the legislation governing the church property restitution was not issued till 2012. In both countries the restitution process resulted in the differentiation of forest land ownership, now presenting challenges for the formulation of forestry policies. In terms of forest management and protection, the most problematic are small-scale forest owners who have lost ties to their restituted forest property and cannot or do not want to manage it.

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Central European Forestry Journal

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