This section focuses on the current status of agricultural land and land markets in the strife-torn transition economies of the Balkans. The states included in this discussion are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), and Macedonia, as well as the administrative protectorate of Kosovo.
Rural land markets in these countries are not only influenced by and a product of the typical transition issues born of the shift from a centrally-planned socialist economy to a market economy, but also by the severe strife and political instability that have accompanied years of ethnic tension and political change and conflict.
None of these countries has escaped the distracting ethnic turmoil and related sapping of energy that might have otherwise been directed toward important development goals. In Macedonia, ongoing political instability and ethnic tension have diverted scarce resources from social and economic agendas.127 In Albania, pressure from refugee populations and the collapse of investment schemes have made land market development slower than it otherwise might have been.128 In Bosnia and Herzegovina, displacement, refugee, land redistribution, and resettlement challenges abound.129 Years of economic decline and political instability have impeded the development and growth of the rural land market in Serbia and Montenegro.130 Ongoing war and political instability have left Croatia's economy and land market on rocky ground131 and, even by 1999, the Croatian population was still subject to serious human rights violations, high unemployment, and political corruption.132
It is within this difficult context of transition economy challenges being further complicated by the reality of war and turmoil that this section addresses the status of Balkan land markets and what might be done to improve their viability.
Private ownership of land is a legal reality in all of the Balkan countries reviewed. In Macedonia, for example, the Constitution of 1991 guarantees the right to own and inherit land (and the right to a free market).133 In Albania, the 1991 Constitution and Law On Land establish the right to private ownership of land.134 The Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitution’s Article II sets out a fundamental right to property,135 and the 1998 Law on Property Relations expressly addresses the ways by which land is acquired. 136 Article 48 of the 1990 Croatian Constitution broadly provides for private ownership and the right of inheritance.137 In Yugoslavia, the 1992 Constitution allows agricultural land to be privately owned, while the State retains power over natural resources.138 The right of private ownership in Kosovo is established by Yugoslavian law in force in 1989 that has not been repealed by the Kosovo Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General or been modified or replaced by regulations promulgated by the Special Representative.139 Although a Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government and a variety of land-related laws have been so promulgated, it appears that the 1992 Yugoslavian Constitution is the vehicle establishing the basic ownership rights.140
Despite constitutional proclamations of broad legal rights to private ownership, policy and legislative intentions are undermined in some cases. For example, some new Macedonian legislation is inconsistent with the private ownership guarantee because it imposes restrictions on sale of land, favors social enterprise, and restricts land use.141
Also, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, constitutionally established ownership rights have yet to be fulfilled in many cases because of the stark realities of war and ethnic strife. During the four years of war, over 2 million of the 4.4 million inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina either became refugees or were displaced from their homes.142 Many of these were rural families residing on agricultural land. On the heels of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord came Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence from Yugoslavia and the creation of the land ownership rights. However, ethnic distinction and segregation have made it uncomfortable if not impossible for some citizens to return to their old land if they now find themselves the minority in that area. Approximately 600,000 displaced people and refugees have returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but only 100,000 have returned to homes where they now find themselves an ethnic minority.143
Similarly, in Croatia ownership rights remain unfulfilled because of wartime displacement. Although current law does not directly sanction discriminatory land redistribution, some minority Serbs still residing in Croatia are unable to reclaim their pre-war land and homes.144 Commissions have recently been established to facilitate the redistribution of land and property to pre-war owners, but in practice these commissions do little to remove the majority Croats from the property. Problematically, a Law on Areas of Special State Concern remains in force, granting complete possessory rights to occupants after a period of 10 years (see below).145
The status of agricultural land privatization efforts varies amongst these Balkan countries, although their general levels of privatization146 easily exceed privatization levels in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. In Yugoslavia, two million peasants were forced into collective farms in the 1940's. However, the program was cancelled in 1952 because of low output.147 Throughout the postwar years, the private sector predominated in both amount of land tilled and production.148 In the 1980's, 82 percent of farmland was still owned by 2.6 million peasant families, on farms of about 9 acres.149 The social sector in agriculture included large agroindustrial complexes or combines (agrokombinats), which also processed the food they produced and dominated the food processing industry. The agricultural social sector also included state farms, owned and operated directly by the State, and general agricultural cooperatives. Most of the farms in the social sector were located in the north, in the Pannonian Plains of Vojvodina and eastern Croatia. All government agricultural investments and subsidies were reserved for state farms and general agricultural cooperatives.150 More recently, the diverting realities of war and ethnic strife, along with relatively high production volumes on state-owned farms, have worked to delay privatization of remaining agricultural land held by state bodies.
In Macedonia, the State has been reluctant to privatize all agricultural land for fear of a reduction in productivity, although state claims as to socially owned farm productivity levels are questionable.151 Nevertheless, between 70 and 85 percent of Macedonian agricultural land is privately owned and is farmed privately.152 Presuming the former percentage, about 463,000 hectares of arable land are held privately. Non-privatized land is socially owned153 and farmed in large agrokombinats or by smaller socially owned farms.154 As the remainder of these socially owned farms are decollectivized, and because agricultural land is designated by law as a public resource, the State retains title to this agricultural land pursuant to the Law for Transformation of Enterprises Which Manage Agricultural Land.155 Non-land assets are privatized and distributed.156 The users of the non-land assets as of the date of decollectivization typically obtain contracts for the lease of the land. 157
A push toward privatization of the socially owned agricultural operations began in 1996 but, as of early 1999, only 15 percent of each unit had been transferred to private operators.158 The average size of arable plots of socially owned land is just over 1,000 hectares. Although varying widely in size, average private farm size is 2.5 to 2.8 hectares.159
In Bosnia and Herzegovina today, about 94 percent of the agricultural land is privately owned and is farmed privately. Pre-1992 legislation allowed individual holdings only up to a parcel size of 10 hectares of flat land and up to 15 hectares of hilly land.160 This legal limit has now been abandoned. About 5 percent of arable land is now held by state farms.161
In Albania, over 94 percent of all land available for distribution had been decollectivized and privatized and was being individually farmed by 1994.162 Albanian farmers are generally hostile toward collective, cooperative, or associative collaborations.163 Albania’s land allocation method was primarily one of per capita distribution rather than restitution. Village land commissions were elected to distribute collective farm land in proportion to family size and collective plot use. Small plots were distributed to assure equity among the farmers, encourage crop diversification, and lower the risk of production failure. However, in some cases local officials left land with the then-current users or attempted to restitute property to former owners.164 State-owned land was initially distributed to state farm workers on a "use only" basis in the same fashion as the collectively farmed land.165 No ownership rights were given for this land until 1995, when legislation transferred ownership of state agricultural land.166
In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), nearly 85 percent of the agricultural land is privatized and is being farmed privately, although large parts of this remain uncultivated or used only part time. This under-use is primarily a result of government intervention via food price controls and market subsidization.167 The remaining agricultural land is farmed by state agricultural enterprises and cooperatives. These large plots provide a disproportionately large percentage of the total production, with the level of contribution probably attributable to better access to inputs provided by the State. Privatization of this land was curtailed in 1991 and has not resumed. 168
In Croatia, by the early 1990's private farmers accounted for about 60 percent of total agricultural land.169 By 2000, approximately 83 percent of arable agricultural land was privately owned and in private use.170 Non-privatized, remaining social sector enterprise land was transferred from social ownership to the State in 1991. For the next 6 years, the government was not legally bound to privatize this land, and few efforts were made to do so. The war obviously contributed to this lack of progress.171 By 1997, the Agricultural Land Act had encouraged the lease or sale of only 10 percent of state land. This is largely attributable to a lack of action on the part of regional commissions that are charged with the primary part of the land leasing.172 In furtherance of this privatization process, the World Bank has called for the government to lease state land that is subject to unresolved ownership claims, and to sell the remainder. To create the needed legal framework, the Bank has also called for a new law on ownership and property rights and amendments to the cadastre and land registration laws. 173
Of the surveyed Balkan countries, only Albania has a state land reserve. This small reserve consists of about 20,000 hectares (of a total 575,400 hectares of arable land). The State began to lease the land to farmers in 1999. District agricultural directors that are governed by the Ministry of Agriculture administer the land.174
Few agricultural land use laws were identified in the surveyed Balkan countries, and tend to address permitted and non-permitted uses. For example, Albania’s Law on the Protection of Fruit Trees prevents the conversion of orchards and vineyards into arable cropland unless permission is obtained from the specified authorities.175 Such laws can fetter land transactions to the extent that they force landowners to maintain uses that would be untenable to those wishing to purchase or lease the land.
Not surprisingly, some land use policy and legislation has been a product of ethnic tension and strife. For example, the 1995 Croatian Law on the Temporary Takeover and Administration of Specified Property (LTTO) permitted the government to place abandoned land (both residential and agricultural) under state administration, and then assign temporary use of the land to other persons. Although this law was repealed in July 1998, the 1996 Law on Areas of Special State Concern permitted the LTTO temporary use to be granted for up to 10 years, and then provided for a mechanism by which the temporary users could obtain full ownership rights at the end of the 10-year period. 176 This provision was eliminated by amendment in July 2000. However, it is reported that requests can still be submitted for obtaining ownership after 10 years.177 In practice, both laws were applied to the property of Croatian Serbs that fled during the war. Repeal of LTTO stopped the issuing of decisions giving permission to occupy Croatian Serb land to Bosnian Croat non-owners, but the issued decisions continue to stand until review under a Program for Return. Some agricultural land was assigned to temporary users under LTTO, but there have also been reports of agricultural land being assigned to non-owner users pursuant to the Law on Agricultural Land, which permitted the government to grant use to non-owners of land lying fallow for a period of 1 to 3 years. 178
Anecdotal evidence about the Program for Return indicates that the process of re-acquiring property will be long and difficult. Municipal commissions responsible for addressing property return claims have been biased, discriminatory, obstructionist, and slow. Accordingly, minority Serbs still residing in Croatia are typically unable to reclaim their pre-war land and homes, and they remain at risk of the temporary users being able to obtain full ownership rights after 10 years.179
Land transactions and land markets in the surveyed Balkan countries are frequently sporadic, uncertain, inefficient, and risky.
In Macedonia, inheritance is the primary type of transaction, with purchase and sale also being significant contributor to total transactions. Leases are a distant third source of transactions, although in some regions up to 25 percent of all farmers lease in land, and about 50 percent of all farmers polled are interested in leasing additional land. A lack of access to credit was cited by farmers as the most frequent constraint to leasing in land.180
The market for land is active but unstable, and has declined in recent years. Unresolved land claims, lack of credit, uncertainty as to broader market conditions, and volatile social and political environments have all combined to retard the land market. Current legislation and legal processes related to purchase and sale are complex and prompt high transaction costs.181
Albanian land markets have only begun to develop relatively recently because of earlier restrictions on the sale of land. Before 1995, the sale of land was prohibited. However, informal sales were common, which caused titling and registration problems and increased insecurity. The sale of agricultural land did become legal in 1995, but a lack of education and lingering state control impeded market development and landowners’ comfort with land transactions for several years. Until 1998, the sale of agricultural land was subject to the conditions of Law no. 7983, which required the seller to offer the land to family, neighboring land owners, ex-owners, and inhabitants of the village before selling to anyone else. 182 Law no. 8337 now streamlines the sale process, allowing property to be sold to any Albanian citizen once a registration, certification, and documentation process has been completed.183 Foreign citizens still cannot purchase land, but they may lease cropland for up to 10 years.184 Current obstacles to a viable Albanian land market include some public uncertainty as to whether land can be properly bought and sold, and a fear of divesting the family of land. As late as 1998, many farmers were not aware that land sales were legal.185 This has contributed to a lack of sales, leases, and exchanges of land in rural areas.
Another underlying factor impeding the development of a land market in Albania is the lack of security farmers have in their title to land. Early problems with title registration and ongoing disputes as to rightful ownership have impacted selling and investing in land. Because Albania chose not to recognize pre-collectivization land rights, there has been some controversy between "newcomers" and historical owners as to who rightfully owns the land. The government made some compensation efforts to these historical owners in 1995, but interest in recovering family land is still prevalent.186 Restitution commissions, pursuant to legal mandate that conflicts with the per capita approach to land distribution, have occasionally awarded land to ex-owners when that land had already been allotted to individuals by village land commissions.187 Additionally, illegal acquisition of land through political or economic influence has been a major source of insecurity for those not having clear title to their land. The resulting insecurity has created some reluctance to invest in or make improvements on the land. Some observers report that investments that have been made are seen predominantly on land that is currently titled to the historical owner.188 Other more recent observers have noted significant investments being made to land owned by both historical and new owners, as well as by occupants having no title to the land upon which they reside.189
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, in addition to the typical constraints seen in transition economies, there are at least four other reasons why land transactions are few and why the land market is flat and dysfunctional. First, there was extensive destruction of property during the war. Twenty-five percent of all buildings were damaged or destroyed,190 and an estimated 10,000 hectares of arable land is left unused because of mine infestation and damage caused by trenches and bombardment.191 Second, the focus on return of property and the related application, hearing, decision, and execution process makes it difficult to establish title to many parcels, and execution of decisions by municipal governments has been slow.192 Third, the current government (rightfully) will not recognize as legal any land contracts that were made under duress during the war.193 Finally, many displaced property owners who would be in minority status if they were to return to their formerly occupied or owned properties are showing no sign of wanting to return to these places. Of an estimated 1,760,000 pre-war inhabitants who became refugees or displaced persons, only an estimated 100,000 have returned to a pre-war home that is in a municipality where they do not belong to a majority group.194
In Croatia, a lack of clarity in property laws and delays in making necessary amendments to these laws have impeded the process of developing a functional land market. Property rights remain unclear due to delays in approving new land laws, and there are major inconsistencies between the land registry and the cadastre.195 Continuing ethnic conflict and land disputes have also taken precedent over governmental focus on updating agricultural land law and focusing on farm productivity.196
Mortgage lending is rare in the surveyed countries. Although all of the countries have laws that would theoretically permit mortgage lending, and no express restrictions were noted, none has the needed support structures (reliable and searchable mortgage registration systems, for example) or support institutions (courts prepared to conduct fair foreclosure proceedings, for example) in place to help mortgage lending thrive.
In Macedonia, the Law of Basic Ownership Relations and the Law on Obligations address mortgage.197 These laws allow and regulate the right of mortgage, but the lack of development in the land market and lengthy procedures for foreclosure have made mortgages very rare.198 These few mortgages have historically been recorded in the courts through intabulation books. Unfortunately, these registers are sometimes incomplete and difficult to search conclusively.199 In addition, no formal rural financial services exist, and rural populations distrust the existing formal banking system. However, there is evidence of informal rural savings.200
In Croatia, there is little if any mortgage lending. A massive program of subsidized credit financed by the government treasury was terminated in 1992. Credit availability as of 2000 was restricted to very small in-kind loans provided by the State Directorate for Strategic Reserves and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which is developing an Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) to provide interim support to farmers through subsidized credit.201
However, the actions of the new Croatian government and the involvement of development banks and NGO's in facilitating new programs for agricultural development look promising. NGO's have been somewhat persuasive in their demands for the government’s adoption of the SSAD (Strategy for Sustainable Agricultural Development). The SSAD was adopted in 1995 and intends to provide rural finance and promote regional planning for sustainable integrated development in the agricultural sector. 202 A proposed mortgage support program passed final review by the European Bank for Reconstruction in September 2001. The Bank will extend a DM 100 million mortgage financing facility to the largest Croatian bank (PBZ). However, the mortgage credit funding will be directed toward housing loan activities.203
The Albanian Civil Code provides for mortgage lending,204 and the Immovable Property Registration System provides for registration of mortgages. One source puts the total number of registered mortgages at about 2,700 for 1999 and at 1,900 for the first 6 months of 2000. However, the vast bulk of these mortgages are urban apartment mortgages, and the lending figures include credit obtained through programs financed by international donors as opposed to private capital.205 Moreover, Albanian bankers report that the foreclosure process is uncertain and untested, thus borrowers must demonstrate little risk of default before loans are made.206
The status of land titling and registration systems is varied but generally nascent and unreliable, with the exception of Albania. Only in Albania is land registration nearing the levels of completion, sophistication, and regularity needed to support or invigorate a viable land market.
In Macedonia, the registration approach would have local cadastre offices register land through postdoven list (issued title documents) in a cadastral land registration system.207 The system, which was authorized by a 1986 Law on Land Survey, Cadastre and Registration of Real Estate Rights, was to have recorded the name, size, and location of all land parcels. Progress has been slow. Initial registration of parcels has not been completed, and subsequent transactions have not been recorded.208
Bosnia and Herzegovina have had a framework in place for land titling and registration since the 1930's. This system, implemented by the Austrians, delineates ownership of land and other property, related rights, and mortgages. Although land registers exist across Bosnia and Herzegovina, approximately 30 percent of the registers were destroyed in World War II and many were not replaced. Land registers are updated manually, and many transactions have not been recorded because of political instability and a 15 percent purchase tax on real estate (pushing land transactions into an informal market). In approximately half of the country, the Austrians also implemented a cadastral system for recording real property rights. Under this system, the municipality is in charge of updating land records, but the majority of the funding comes through the State.209 In 1984, this system was updated through the "Law on Land Surveying and the Real Estate Cadastre." Through this law the registration system was partially computerized, and included some secured loans on property.210 However, the system was only 10 percent functional in 1999 and the lack of comprehensive registration is still an obstacle to a functional land market.211
In Kosovo, any surviving titling comes from the Turkish tapi system. This system identifies the owner and delineates the property through describing boundaries and neighbors. A survey of Kosovar land, effectively used as cadastral documentation, was completed in 1937 and was carried out primarily by the Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia212. The system was understandably piecemeal and often not used because of the population movements created by ethnic and political conflict.213 Albanian occupants of Kosovo generally did not make use of the tapi system, primarily because of illiteracy and high transaction costs. Because of this lack of participation, ethnic Albanian land rights have been marginalized and disregarded by subsequent political regimes.214
While informal land transactions are the most common, the rarely used tapi system does remain at the core of the registration system in Kosovo.215 Under this system, land and immovable property are apparently fully alienable, with support from a Certificate of Possession, which is issued by the Communal Directorate of Geodesy. Legally, these certificates are proof only of possessory rights, and not ownership rights. However, in practice property is seen as owned by those with possessory documentation.216 As these land certificates are necessary for all land transactions, most residents know the boundaries and exact parcel of land they possess.217 There has been some overlap of certification, but in large part, the use of land for a certain number of years has given uncontested ownership rights to the occupier of the land.218 The requirements for obtaining an official tapi are:
The recent war in Kosovo has been a contributing factor in the lack of registered titles to land.220 The displacement of minority ethnic groups, a substantial refugee population, and the destruction of government offices and records have made legal land documentation a rarity.221
Croatia has a cadastral and land registration system, both of which are incomplete.222 The Law on Geodesy and Cadastre and the Law of Land Registers govern the two systems respectively. The land registry records both legal rights and the existence of secured loans, but both records reveal numerous inconsistencies in land rights and ownership. Land registration is administered primarily at a regional level and, as of 1998 was still manually recorded on paper. As of 1997, estimated annual land transfers were 70,000 and registered mortgages numbered 15,000.
In Montenegro, the Real Estate Office drafts laws and regulations for land sales and transactions. The Office also registers changes in real estate rights and maintains the cadastral registry.223
Albania is one of the few countries to have created a government agency to focus directly and solely upon land and land market support. The Immovable Property Registration System (IPRS) is an independent agency that reports directly to the Council of Ministers. However, because IPRS is neither a ministry nor subordinate to a ministry, it has not received the needed cooperation from existing ministries and other government agencies (which are subordinate to existing ministries). Observers have recommended that, while IPRS’ independent status is admirable and useful, IPRS be elevated in its institutional status. Such elevation would be hoped to aid IPRS in presenting legislation directly to the parliament, resisting external political pressures, and strengthening the functional status of land registration.224
Albania’s IPRS was born of a USAID land registration project that has been active from 1994 through the present date. By November 2000, all 34 planned district registration offices were open and operating, and it has been estimated that 65 to 80 percent of all properties will have undergone first registration by the end of 2002. As a vital indicator of initial success, the system does capture most subsequent transactions.225 It is clear that a variety of supporting measures, beyond land registration, will be needed to help create an active land market. 226
Effective use of agricultural land in Macedonia is seen by some as hindered by a serious fragmentation problem that stems from earlier limitations on land use and ownership, inheritance practices, and a long history of informal land market activity. Until 1988, the maximum amount of land a rural inhabitant could own was 10 hectares. There is currently no farm size restriction. Average farm sizes now are 2.5 to 2.8 hectares, and these family farms are typically separated into several non-contiguous parcels. Land scarcity and lack of security have furthered this fragmentation,227 and land market activity has generally not resulted in consolidation.228
Macedonia’s 1986 Law on Land Use regulates the transfer of privately held agricultural land, and attempts to prevent fragmentation and promote consolidation in several ways. First, a tax (now at 3 percent of the land's market value, but at a higher level when first levied) is levied on agricultural land transfers to discourage them. Second, the law required that a right of first refusal be offered to the users of nearby socially owned land and then to owners of neighboring plots.229 It is reported that these restrictions were frequently not followed in practice.
This law was amended in 1991 to reduce some of the restrictions on transfers. The amendment did away with the social owner first refusal right, but did retain the first refusal right of neighbors within the cadastral region. This part of the amendment was later deemed unconstitutional because it inequitably favored those in the neighboring area. The 1991 amendments also prohibited the division of land parcels by way of sale, inheritance, or gift.230
Albania's per capita land allocation methods have resulted in small plots and the fragmentation of land, both in terms of the overall size of land allotments and the number of non-contiguous parcels received by each family.231 Out of the 420 farming cooperatives that existed prior to 1991, approximately 1.5 million parcels have been distributed, resulting in an average plot size of 1 hectare.232 One three-district survey showed that 57 percent of farmers have 3 to 5 parcels of non-contiguous land, while another 17 percent have 6-10 parcels.233
Voluntary consolidation through exchange has been encouraged in Albania, though evidence suggests it was constrained by the then-inadequate land registration system. Consolidation has also taken the forms of farmers agreeing to plant the same crops on adjoining parcels, others (mainly families), working together on combined land parcels, and some formation of production groups. Regarding the latter, a number of multi-family production groups have started, and it is reported that there have been some successes and some failures.234
There is a heavy reliance by the government in Albania on the evolving land market to alleviate fragmentation problems. The government hopes that consolidation will be fostered now that sale, lease and mortgage of immovable property has been legalized. However, education on property rights, security of land title, and availability of credit are seen by some as key to facilitating this process. At this point, fragmentation of Albanian agricultural land still seems to be increasing.235
A recent appraisal for a proposed Albania Agricultural Services Project (to be funded by World Bank credits) concluded that there is a wide-spread belief in government and among many land holders that land consolidation would lead to the establishment of more productive farms and higher rural incomes. Accordingly, the project’s land component will include a pilot land consolidation initiative. In the design of this component, a choice was made to test voluntary, market-based mechanisms to foster consolidation through swaps, land sales, or leases, and to eschew proposals to strongly support group-farming initiatives that have little record of success internationally and a negative connotation in the Albanian context. 236
Croatia has supported efforts to increase family farm size. For example, the 1994 Law on Agricultural Land specifies conditions and procedures for granting credit to farmers for use in land consolidation efforts. This law also provides for the protection of agricultural land in case of change of its use.237 A 1994 Strategy for Sustainable Agricultural Development promoted enlargement of family farms.238 A 1995 Strategy of Croatian Agricultural Development also encouraged an increase in farm size.239
State entities (usually national but sometimes municipal) play the primary land-related administrative roles in all of the surveyed countries. These state agencies frequently have a broader general mission than one of land administration or management. For example, the Macedonian Ministry of Agriculture was historically responsible for administering the cadastral land registration system.240 The same agency also directs administering the transfer or lease of socially owned land to private enterprises (while retaining control and state ownership of that land in the public interest).241 In Croatia, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is in charge of implementing and monitoring regulations and laws relating to rural development, agriculture, and agricultural land.242
The wars and ethnic strife in many of these countries have spawned a number of public agencies that participate in land-related activities. For example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Return and Reconstruction Task Force (RRTF) is responsible for collecting information regarding property ownership, processing claims for restitution, and finding temporary accommodations for displaced persons.243 In Kosovo, the United Nations Mission has established the Housing and Property Directorate and the Housing and Property Claims Commission. The former has been given exclusive jurisdiction over the most controversial residential property claims, while the latter has been designated to resolve property claims until the Kosovo courts are able to take on the cases.244
Despite the predominance of public sector administrative actors in the land arena, there are a few examples of private sector entities playing important roles in the surveyed Balkan countries.
For example, in Albania, private notaries are a required element in registration of land transactions. These notaries review the transaction documents, including sales or lease contracts, authenticate issued ownership documents, and approve the transaction documents package.245 In Serbia as of 1999, the Center for Advanced Legal Studies had listed a future project as developing a “Model Law on Public Notary Service.”246 Both Albania and Croatia have national organizations of notaries.247 Some observers question the need for at least some of the land-related functions (and related transaction costs) provided by both Albanian notaries and notaries generally.248
Real estate brokers and agents are operating to some extent in all of the surveyed countries. The number of agencies in a particular locale, and the breadth and sophistication of representation and services varies significantly. For example, one guide to real estate agencies in Sarajevo lists fifteen concerns.249 Albania’s real estate community has created the National Real Estate Association of Albania to represent the industry, provide public education, lobby for legislative reform, establish ethical tenets, sponsor training, and publish real estate listings.250 A cursory review of real estate listings on agency web sites in Bosnia and Croatia showed a relatively small stock of available properties, and there were no agricultural parcels listed.251 Commission rates for one Croatian agency were 4 percent of the purchase price for brokering a sale, 6 percent of the purchase price for brokering a purchase, one monthly rent amount brokering leases up to three years, and two monthly rent amounts for brokering leases more than three years.252