Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Albanian Land Grab Victims Renew Compensation Bid

People whose land was expropriated under Communism say a proposed new law will not give them the compensation they deserve - and Albania’s president agrees.

Fatjona Mejdini

The former landowners renewed their challenge to the new law after President Bujar Nishani refused to sign it at the end of December, returning the legislation to parliament.

The law, which aims to end the compensation process within the next 10 years by paying out around 363 million euros to former landowners, was passed by parliament earlier in December.

But Nishani said it contravened the Albanian constitution, the European convention on human rights and European human rights court decisions on the issue.

The president’s move came after a campaign of opposition by seven associations representing former landowners.

“We strongly oppose this new law since it doesn't provide the exact sum that the state owns to former landowners. If this law enters into force, it will further prolong the process of financial compensation and reduce the amount of money that we as landowners will get,” one of them, Myrshit Vorpsi of the Property with Justice association, told BIRN.

He said that the association would take the law to the constitutional court if the government doesn't change it.

"We trust that any court is going to disavow this law, so the best solution is to withdraw and amend it," Vorpsi said.

But Prime Minister Edi Rama said on December 30 that the parliamentary majority would vote the law through again the law, despite the president’s stance.

"The properties law is not an ideal one. But is the only one that gives a solution to this problem after 25 years of chaos in this field," Rama said.

Albania has been ordered in various different cases at the European human rights court in Strasbourg to pay millions of euros to landowners expropriated by the Communists.

At the end of the 1940s when the Communists took over the country, hundreds of thousands of landowners’ properties were seized.

But more than two decades after the fall of Communism, the state has yet to compensate 26,000 families who have already won the right to payouts and make decisions in the cases of 11,00 others who are still waiting for official recognition of the fact that their holdings were seized.

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