The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg has rejected the government’s request to compensate the families of former property owners who won their cases in court on the basis of the value of the land as farming, rather than construction ground.
There are currently 82 dossiers of former property owners against the Albanian state under review at the ECtHR. The total of claims is around €550 million, a sum, which, if successfully claimed, would collapse the Albanian public budget.
The Albanian government has requested that the compensation for the land be made no the basis of a law from 1944, in which lands that are someone’s property are classified as farming land. Currently the price of farming land is around 230 lekë per square meter.
However, the ECtHR has acknowledged the right of the owner’s families to be compensated according the construction land prices, which are several times higher.
During 2016, nine families won court cases against the Albanian state at the ECtHR. The sum of €22.7 million will have to be paid to the owners within three months, otherwise the government will have to start paying a penalty.
Many families of former owners whose property was confiscated by the communist regime have turned to the ECtHR as a last resort to be compensated for their losses. Even though the Albanian state has approved several laws, it hasn’t managed to solve the persistent problem.
In May 2015, Prime Minister Edi Rama publicly declared that the ECtHR would no longer accept cases related to former properties, because the Albanian state would start to implement the property law. However, the ECtHR website mentions no such agreement with the Albanian state, and it continues to treat the cases.
In general, the ECtHR is willing to cooperate with states to resolve legal issues through national legislation. It also always applies a suspension agreement in those cases when the government of a certain country passes a new law. However, in the case such a new law does not bring about the solution needed, citizens have the right to turn again to the ECtHR.