Property rights are the main issues faced by Albania’s religious communities, according to the U.S. State Department 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom published on Wednesday.
The four biggest religious communities in the country continued to express concerns about property restitution, including provisions in the law that required them to resubmit their claims in a new forum.
Corruption, lack of knowledge of competencies and jurisdiction on property cases, and large caseloads in the court system hampered religious communities’ ability to claim their property, according to numerous civil society sources.
The government legalized 92 buildings owned by religious groups during the year, compared with 164 in 2019, while the status of 32 additional properties remained under review.
The Bektashi community and the Albanian Muslim Community reported problems defending the title to certain properties.
The AMC reported the government denied its application for a permit to build a new campus for Beder University, requested in early 2018.
It notes that the law stipulates the government will give financial support to faith communities, but the government’s agreement with the Evangelical Brotherhood of Albania (VUSH) under the law does not specifically designate it to receive such funding. VUSH reported the government continued not to allocate funds to their churches.
VUSH leaders reported continued difficulties in acquiring permission to construct a church as well as problems concerning municipal government fees.
The report also highlights the collaboration between religious communities in Albania, as well as with public institutions.
It notes that the Interreligious Council, a forum for the country’s religious leaders to discuss shared concerns, held several online and in-person meetings domestically and internationally.
Religious leaders expressed support for the government’s COVID-19 preventive measures, canceling gatherings, including for worship, for two months.
The Albanian parliament unanimously adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism in October 2020.
The U.S. embassy urged the government to speed up the process to return to religious communities their property confiscated during the communist era.