OPTANTS AND THEIR PROPERTY
After the end of the World War II and after conclusion of Peace Treaty between former Yugoslavia and Italy in 1947, massive emigration started from the territory over which the former Yugoslavia had established its sovereignty (Istria, Rijeka, and parts of Dalmatia). There were three ways of those emigrations: through the so called options, release of citizenship and illegal emigration, which explains the difference between terms “optants” and “Esuli.”
The optants were given a chance to choose between two citizenships and in the end they had decided to keep Italian citizenship. Thereby they kept all the civil rights including a right of compensation for their property, while the Esuli didn’t have those rights.
The optant property as a legal institution exists from 1947, and it is a matter of numerous proceedings within court and administrative practice. It is about a property, which until conclusion of the Peace Treaty with Italy on 15. September 1947, was the ownership of Italian citizens, so called optants who issued an option- statement to keep Italian citizenship.
It was agreed in this Treaty that the property of Italian citizens which is located in the annexed territory stays in their ownership. However, they were allowed to sell such property under same conditions as the citizens of the successor state (point 10. of the Annex of the Treaty).
The optants could freely dispose of their real estate property until 23 December 1950, i.e. until conclusion of the Rome Agreement between former FNRJ and the Republic of Italy. On this occasion the Yugoslavian government agreed to purchase entire optant property, which was intended to be sold by their Italian owners.
All the optants who issued such statement at that time, couldn’t change the status of that property any more.
By further Agreement concluded between FNRJ and the Republic of Italy on 18 December 1954 (Official Journal FNRJ Appendix No. 2. of 01.February 1956.) all the optants’s real estates which they wanted to sell, were transferred to public ownership, while the property of those people who had opted for Italian citizenship, but did not want to sell their property, was subject to injunction prohibiting disposal thereof.
The status of the free optant property was resolved by the Agreement on the Application of the Agreement of 18. December 1954, when the optant property, apart from real estates from the Appendix “A” which remaind with the optants’ ownership, was transfered to public ownership. The Yugoslavian government was obliged to pay the Italian Government a monetary compensation so that the Italian Government could compensate former owners.
The question of 500 optant goods that remained in the ownership of the optants was regulated by the Protocol between SFRJ and Italy of 18 February 1983, which defined a list “A” of unresolved cases of the options for Italian citizenship.
As for the claims pursuant to the Act on compensation for property confiscated during the Yugoslavian communist government, there is a provision in the article 10th which says: “the former owner is not entitled to compensation for confiscated property when the compensation issue is resolved by some treaty,” and that is exactly the case with the optant property.
In all the cases where it needs to be ascertained whether there are any rights based on the optant property, it needs to be determined primarily that a property was confiscated from a person who gave an option-statement, regardless of the time when the statement was approved, and that the concerned property was owned by an optant on 15 September 1947.