“Ownership by Justice”, Association Tirana, Albania/ USA Chapter
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
April 23, 2016
Dear Mr. President,
We are American citizens of Albanian descent. We are writing now to protest against property rights violations in Albania, an issue that has caused great and continuing hardship in our native country and to ourselves.
Albania, long under communist rule,was notoriousnot only for human rights violations, but the violent expropriations of private properties throughout our country, without appropriate compensation. Owners, persecuted, condemned and exiled, rarely dared seek a vindication of their rights. When the Communistswere overthrown, Albania’s political parties remained by-products of their past and, unsurprisingly, their policies supposedly instituted to return property to rightful owners were ineffectual. Agricultural land, for example,was distributed to families residing in villages on the theory that land belongs to those who work it, not those who own it and similar principles were applied in the context of privatization of economic and trade enterprises, to the great damage of owners.
Political parties encouraged or directed the build-out of massive residential and trade buildings on the land of other people. Illegal builders forcibly ejected ownersbut the state remained indifferent, refusing to intervene to protect owners. In 2006, illegal constructions numbered roughly 400,000 but Albaniadidnothing to punishthe illegal occupants. Instead, the government “legalized” the illegal constructions and excused the mass expropriationson the basis of purported “public need.” Compensation for the occupied lands was wholly inconsistent with their actual values and the owners were paid mere fractions of the actual value of their property.
For a small fraction of owners, compensation was supposedlygoing to be set at market price rates,but allocated funds turned out to be inadequate.Albanian owners sought justicein the European Court of Human Rights (EUHR) and the Court ruled for the owners. Financial bills that were required to be paid by the Albanian state mounted but the government refused to pay appropriate compensation. Such refusal was found to be a human rights violation. Penaltiesimposed upon the Albanian Government by EUHR were severe and could have resulted in a state bankruptcy.
In December, 2015, the Albanian Parliament, by majority vote, enacted a law changingthe manner of property valuation and reducing property assessments. This law has been challenged in the Albanian Constitutional Court, by the President of the Republic of Albania and numerous associations, as well asAlbania’s Democratic and Republican Parties. The government is currently pretending this law is necessary to protect the “public interest” and claims that it accords with the decision-making of the International Court of Freedoms and Human Rights. To the contrary, on November 10th, 2015, March 17th, 2016 and April 7th, 2016 this same courtissued rulings directing the State of Albania to pay fines amounting to over 24 million Euros. The Court approved the owners’ compensation claimsin accord with market ratesas determined in 2008 and not under the new laws, confirming the owners were and are entitled to real compensation.
Failure to respect ownership rights is a violation of human rights– it nourishes and strengthens economic and political corruption with respect to private property thus under-girding Albanian political corruption. Restitution of our properties is fair and reasonable. Allowing third parties to effectively seize them without paying for them is, as recognized already by the courts, not only a dis-service to the public interest, in itself, but encouragesdeeper and further corruption.
Justice reforms do not end with the removal of corrupt judges, prosecutors, police or employees. Real justice requires that alawless mindsetwhich encourages people to do as they please,regardless of how one’s conduct impinges on other people’s rights, be replaced. Without real rights of ownership and protections that real and substantial, Albania will continue to be plagued by the failed and unjust system the Communists long imposed.
We hope you will take the opportunity to address our concerns with Albanian goverment and thank you in advance for your time and attention in reviewing this matter.
With highest respect and consideration, we wish you success in your noble work.