The Albanian government has approved and passed for approval a law that will allow public property to be given to non-profit organisations indefinitely, as long as the organisation exists.
The provision is a part of the draft law “On State Immovable Property” and will grant the land on the condition of EUR 5 million being invested in it. The law states that immovable state-owned (i.e public land) will be made available to the NGO “as long as the private non-profit entity exists, the destination of use and development of the property doesn’t change, and when over EUR 5 million has been invested in the property.”
The current Law on Public Property recognises the right of the government to transfer the administration of a property to another state body which can better administer it. But this new change will allow the state to take the property out of public use and hand it over to any organisation that is considered an NGO
Albanian NGOs operate in a largely unregulated space with little supervision or transparency. Most do not publish their statute, monthly or annual activities, or annual financial reports. Exit researched some of the country’s biggest NGOs and found that they did not publish annual statements, reports, expenditures, donations, or sources of funds. NGOs by their very nature are only allowed to source revenue through funds and donations.
It is also concerning that there are minimal requirements for the NGOs who can benefit from the law. The only criteria is that they invest EUR 5 million into the property.
Previously there have been issues where an NGO has taken over a historic property and failed to deliver on the terms of the project. These include the Hammam in Durres and various historic houses in Gjirokaster.
In May of this year, the Forum for the Protection of Cultural Heritage alleged that restoration of a number of historic sites damaged by the 26 November earthquake is being done by NGOs with no experience and the work being done doesn’t match the original.
“So far we have information that the projects were designed by experts who do not have a license for ancient medieval monuments and the procedures followed are in complete violation of the law,” said the Forum in a statement.
The law also violates the principle of independence and integrity of Albanian territory as it enables public property or land to be used indefinitely by a foreign entity. The draft does not exclude foreign organisations from making use of the law.
One of the main principles enshrined in the Constitution is the independence and integrity of the territory of Albania. This means that the lands owned by the Albanian state must be administered by the latter.
Under the proposed law, a foreign entity that is privately owned could control the land for an indefinite amount of time. The law does not provide for any government control mechanism over the organisations or the administration of the property.
The draft comes weeks after the government announced another law that would mean all properties on the coast must be sold to the government upon request. In addition to this, private development of coastal property will be forbidden and can only be carried out by “strategic developments” that the government approves.