The restitution of religious property seized during the Communist regime remains the biggest challenge to religious communities in Albania, according to a report by the U.S. Department of State.
The report, published yearly, describes the status of religious freedom in some 190 countries around the globe, focusing especially on violations committed against religious belief and groups.
For Albania, it praised the country’s excellent “interfaith relations,” but found several issues pertaining to property restitutions and financial support for religious communities.
“The five religious communities with agreements with the government continued to express concerns about restitution of property seized under the former communist regime, stating that corruption, government lack of knowledge of competencies and jurisdiction on property cases, and large caseloads in the court system hampered their claims,” the report found.
According to the State Cadastre Agency, the government was facing several challenges in returning property being used by other parties, or finding the funds to provide financial compensation to previous owners.
“Religious communities criticized the SAC’s approach to legalizing property, stating the process was bureaucratic, produced delays, and was hampered by the SAC’s inability to locate relevant documents in state archives,” according to the report.
Furthermore, the religious communities said they are still struggling to receive exemptions from state and local taxes despite treaties. They also reported being in financial difficulty because of the pandemic, with restrictions on gatherings having impacted their ability to collect funds.
Nevertheless, the report found few cases of discrimination and outright religious-motivated violence in Albania. It highlighted the April 19, 2021 attack at the Dine Hoxhe mosque in Tirana, and the fact that some media peddle anti-semitic conspiracy theories about George Soros’s role in influencing local politics.
Ultimately, the report urged the Albanian government to accelerate its efforts to return religious communities the properties they lost during the Communist era.
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