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Informality in Eastern Europe

Structures, Political Cultures and Social Practices

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Edited By Christian Giordano and Nicolas Hayoz

This volume deals with different aspects of informal structures and practices in Eastern Europe. Its objectives are twofold. It aims at discovering whether or to what extent informal structures and practices in Eastern Europe have meanings, functions, forms and effects different from those that can be observed in the politics and societies of Western Europe. The authors of this volume – most of them are from the region – have been invited to discuss the scientific relevance of the distinction informal / formal in their respective field of research or discipline. This points to the second objective of this volume which is to encourage a more fruitful interaction between disciplines that often disregard each other and which, despite inevitable and essential epistemological differences, have significant shared interests such as the comparative analysis of political phenomena in terms of elementary forms of social organization. The relation between informality and formality in a more methodologically pluralist and ultimately holistic way can be analysed via regards croisés between the disciplines anthropology, political science and sociology. This allows the extension of this comparative and multidisciplinary approach to other themes and phenomena of mutual interests.
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Informality in Albania – The Case of Rural Land Tenure and Transactions

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Introduction

In the beginning of the 1990s, Albania embarked in a difficult transition to democracy and a market economy following the political and social changes in Central Eastern Europe (CEE) and the collapse of the communist regime of former Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha. One key reform that the country attempted to implement early on in 1991 was the land distribution reform. For nearly five decades under communist rule, agricultural land was owned by the state and managed through state-run farms and cooperatives, which were dissolved in early 1990. Through land reform, the government redistributed agricultural land “equally per capita” to rural residents (Law 7501), without any reference to the pre-collectivization property boundaries or property titles. Thus an overlap of claims emerged between pre-collectivization or so called “old owners” to inherit the land, versus “new owners” who received agriculture land through the newly implemented reform. The overlapping claims to property spurred social tensions and conflicts which two decades after continue to account for the lion share of pending civil litigation cases in Albania’s courts. In cases where the justice system fails to resolve the conflict between the claimants traditional mediators (such as local village elders, other municipal level officials, religious leaders and NGOs) are called upon to negotiate a resolution of land and property conflicts (OSCE, 2004; World Bank, 2006; Stahl et al., 2009).

These overlaps and disputes have created an environment of property insecurity. Lemel (2000), Stahl et al. (2009) and Zhllima et al....

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