GREECE: Greece must pay €12 million compensation to former king Constantine for property seized after the royal family fled the country in 1967, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.
The court in Strasbourg said in a statement yesterday that Athens must also pay €900,000 to his sister, Princess Irene, and €300,000 to his aunt, Princess Catherine.
A further payment of €500,000 must be made to all three to cover their legal expenses.
Greece, where the former king is deeply unpopular, reacted by accepting the ruling. "We will pay this compensation. With this decision there is a final and irreversible end to the demands of the former monarch against Greece," the Prime Minister, Mr Costas Simitis, said.
Mr Simitis said the payout ordered by the court was only a fraction of the €500 million Constantine had hoped for. "His efforts have failed. A big gap separates this sum from his arrogant demands," said Mr Simitis.
"The court deemed it appropriate to fix a lump sum based, as far as possible, on an amount 'reasonably related' to the value of the property taken," it said, adding the amount did not necessarily reflect the full value of the properties.
The former royal family fled the country, first to Rome and then London, after the military seized power in April 1967.
In November 2000, the court ruled that Greece had violated the former royal family's right to own property since it possessed these estates as private citizens and not in their capacity as members of the royal family.
The case concerns three properties - the royal family's former summer residence Tatoi north of Athens, a palace on the island of Corfu, where Britain's Prince Philip was born, and a provincial residence near the city of Larisa.
The military junta which seized power in April 1967 abolished the monarchy, a decision upheld in a 1974 referendum.
The state seized the former royal family's movable and fixed assets and deposited 120 million drachmas (€350,000 at today's rates) in a bank account as compensation. The royal family never claimed the money.
In 1994, the socialist government of the late Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou expropriated the royal property.
Judicial authorities disagreed on the legitimacy of this step but a special supreme court session ruled the law allowing this did not violate the constitution.
That same year, Constantine and eight other member of the royal family took Greece to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting their case in the Greek courts.
The contested properties are prime real estate. The former summer residence comprises more than 4,000 hectares at the foot of Mount Parnitha, the provincial residence of Polidendri takes up 3,400 hectares in the heart of the Thessaly plain and Mon Repos palace on Corfu stands on 24 hectares. - (Reuters)