Romania returns castle to its former king Michael

BUCHAREST, Romania: The Romanian government said Thursday it would return a castle and other confiscated property to former King Michael.

Peles castle was built in the mountain resort of Sinaia in the late 19th century by Romania's first German-born king, Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. It was confiscated by the former Communist regime after Michael abdicated in 1947. The nearby Pelisor and Foisor palaces also will be returned.

Michael, 85, hailed the return of his castle, a place where he spent most of his childhood.

"This is not just about returning a possession, but also an act of moral and historical reparation," he said in a statement. He added that the castle, which is well preserved and is one of Romania's top tourist attractions, would remain forever a museum, and would never be used for commercial purposes.

The former king is the last living European leader who was in power during WWII.

The government has agreed in principle to buy the Peles castle back from the former king, with a memorandum to be signed next week.

The royal family wants to use the Pelisor palace as its headquarters, but parts of it will remain a museum.

Michael and his daughter, Princess Margarita, have been acting as goodwill ambassadors in recent years, supporting Romania's efforts to join the European Union in 2007.

Romania has passed legislation to return property seized by Communist-era authorities to its former owners.

The government and Michael initially reached a deal in 2005 in which the former king would be paid €30 million (US$40 million) instead of regaining the Peles castle, but a court invalidated it, ruling that Michael could not be given special treatment. Michael's representatives have said he would sell the castle to the state for the same price.

Last year, the government returned the 15th century Bran Castle, known for its ties to medieval prince Vlad the Impaler who inspired Bram Stoker's "Dracula" novel, to other members of the former royal family.

Bran Castle will remain open to the public as a museum for the next three years, according to an agreement signed by the Culture Ministry and the new owners.

from: Herald Tribune

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