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Albania

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Individuals and investors face significant challenges with protection and enforcement of property rights. Despite recent improvements, procedures remain cumbersome, and registrants have complained of corruption during the process.  Over the last three decades, the GoA has drafted and passed much, though not all, of its property legislation in a piecemeal and uncoordinated way. According to the EU’s 2020 Report, Albania must consolidate the entrenchment of property rights, especially by finalizing first registration, advancing the registration of property deeds, and implementing the compensation scheme. Reform of the sector has yet to incorporate consolidation of property rights and the elimination of legal uncertainties. The Law on the Finalization of Transitional Ownership Processes adopted in March 2020 aims to consolidate property rights by finalizing land allocation and privatization processes contained in 14 various laws issued between 1991 and 2018.

The property registration system has improved thanks to international donor assistance, but the process has moved forward very slowly as Albania has yet to complete the initial registration of property titles in the country. By the end of 2019, approximately one third of the properties were registered in digital form, focused almost entirely in Tirana and in other areas that experienced significant development. In total 3.5 million properties were registered as part of the initial registration process which represents slightly above 80% of total properties in Albania. However, plot records for many of these properties are still only in paper form and often in poor and outdated condition. Approximately 1 million properties have still not been registered for the first time, which includes the southern coastal area. In 2020, the government launched a process to register properties in the southern coastal area, and area that holds significant potential for the tourism industry. However, the poor state of the data is a risk for title security and a constraint to investment.

Albania has registered an estimated 440,000 illegal structures, built without permits, and illicit construction continues to be a major impediment to securing property titles. A process that aims to legalize or eliminate such structures started in 2006 but is not complete. Around 178,000 legalization permits were issued through the end of 2019.

The fluid situation has led to clashes between squatters, owners of allegedly illegal buildings, and the Albanian State Police including during the demolition of these structures to make way for public infrastructure projects.

To streamline the property management process, the GoA established in April 2019 the State Cadaster Agency (ASHK), which merged different agencies responsible for property registration, compensation, and legalization, including the Immovable Property Registration Office (IPRO), the Agency of Inventory and Transfer of Public Properties (AITPP), and the Agency for the Legalization and Urbanization of Informal Areas (ALUIZNI).

According to the 2020 World Bank’s “Doing Business Report,” Albania performed poorly in the property registration category, ranking 98th out of 190 countries.  It took an average of 19 days and five procedures to register property, and the associated costs could reach 8.9 percent of the total property value. The civil court system manages property rights disputes, but verdicts can take years, authorities often fail to enforce court decisions, and corruption concerns persist within the judiciary.

Intellectual Property Rights

Albania is not included on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.  That said, intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement and theft are common due to weak legal structures and poor enforcement.  Counterfeit goods, while decreasing, are present in some local markets and shopping malls, including software, garments, machines, and cigarettes. Albanian law protects copyrights, patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications, but enforcement of these laws is weak.  Regulators are ineffective at collecting fines and prosecutors rarely press charges for IPR theft. U.S. companies should consult an experienced IPR attorney and avoid potential risks by establishing solid commercial relationships and drafting strong contracts. According to the 2020 International Property Right Index   published by Property Right Alliance, Albania ranks 112th out of 129 countries evaluated, and bottom in the region. It ranked 78th in the subcategory of copyright piracy.

A revised 2016 IPR law aimed to strengthen enforcement and address shortcomings so as to harmonize domestic legislation with that of the EU.  In 2019, the Criminal Code was amended to include harsher punishments of up to three years in prison for IPR infringement.

In the areas of copyright, patent, and trademarks, the two main bodies responsible are the Copyright Directorate and the General Directorate of Industrial Property (GDIP), which is in charge of registering, administering, and promoting IPR. Other institutions responsible for IPR enforcement include the Copyright Division of the State Inspectorate for Market Surveillance (SIMS), the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), the General Directorate for Customs, the Tax Inspectorate, the Prosecutor’s Office, the State Police, and the courts.  In 2018, the National Council of Copyrights was established as a specialized body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the law and certifying the methodology for establishing the tariffs. Two other important bodies in the protection and administration of IPR are the agencies for the Collective Administration (AAK) and the Copyrights Department within the Ministry of Culture. Four different AAKs have merged in 2017 to provide service into a sole window for the administration of IPR.

The SIMS, established in 2016, is responsible for inspecting, controlling, and enforcing copyright and other related rights.  Despite some improvements, actual law enforcement on copyrights continues to be problematic and copyright violations are persistent.  The number of copyright violation cases brought to court remains low. While official figures are not available this year, Customs does usually report the quantity of counterfeit goods destroyed annually.  In cases of seizures, the rights holder has the burden of proof and so must first inspect the goods to determine if they are infringing.  The rights holder is also responsible for the storage and destruction of the counterfeit goods.

Cigarettes are traditionally the most common counterfeited product seized by Customs. According to the EU 2020 report on Albania, the high number of counterfeit products in the country remains a cause for concerns

The GDIP is responsible for registering and administering patents, commercial trademarks and service marks, industrial designs, and geographical indications.  The 2008 law on industrial property was amended in 2014 to more closely align with that of the EU.  In 2020, the number of applications to register industrial property continued to rise with 2,654 new applications (including 1,475 trademarks and 1158 for patents).  GDIP has prepared draft legislation on trade secrets in order to align the with the EU acquis which was deposited in the Parliament in December 2020.

Albania is party to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Patent Law Treaty, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, and is a member of the European Patent Organization.  The government became party to the London Agreement on the Implementation of Article 65 of the European Convention for Patents in 2013. In 2018, Parliament approved the Law 34/2018 on Albania’s adherence to the Vienna Agreement for the International Classification of the Figurative Elements of Marks. In June 2019, Albania joined the Geneva Act of WIPO’s Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IPR offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at Embassy Tirana on IPR issues:
Alex MacFarlane
Economic Officer
Phone: + 355 (0) 4229 3115
E-mail:  USALBusiness@state.gov 

Country resources:

American Chamber of Commerce
Address: Rr. Deshmoret e shkurtit, Sky Tower, kati 11 Ap 3 Tirana, Albania
Email:  info@amcham.com.al 
Phone: +355 (0) 4225 9779
Fax: +355 (0) 4223 5350
http://www.amcham.com.al/  

List of local lawyers:  http://tirana.usembassy.gov/list_of_attorneys.html

9. Corruption

Endemic corruption continues to undermine the rule of law and jeopardize economic development. Foreign investors cite corruption, particularly in the judiciary, a lack of transparency in public procurement, informal economy, and poor enforcement of contracts as some of the biggest problems in Albania. Despite some improvement in Albania’s score from 2013 to 2016, progress in tackling corruption has been slow and unsteady. In 2020, Albania’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) score and ranking improved respectively from 35 to 36 and from 106 to 104 but still far from the 2016 score and rank of respectively 39 and 83. Albania is still one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, according to the CPI and other observers.

The country has a sound legal framework to prevent conflict of interest and to fight corruption of public officials and politicians, including their family members. However, law enforcement is jeopardized by a heavily corrupt judicial system.

The passage of constitutional amendments in July 2016 to reform the judicial system was a major step forward, and reform, once fully implemented, is expected to position the country as a more attractive destination for international investors. Judicial reform has been described as the most significant development in Albania since the end of communism, and nearly one-third of the constitution was rewritten as part of the effort. The reform also entails the passage of laws to ensure implementation of the constitutional amendments. Judicial reform’s vetting process will ensure that prosecutors and judges with unexplained wealth or insufficient training, or those who have issued questionable verdicts, are removed from the system. As of publication, more than half of the judges and prosecutors who have faced vetting have either failed or resigned. The establishment of the Special Prosecution Office Against Corruption (SPAK) and Organized Crime and of the National Investigation Bureau, two new judicial bodies, will step up the fight against corruption and organized crime. Once fully implemented, judicial reform will discourage corruption, promote foreign and domestic investment, and allow Albania to compete more successfully in the global economy.

The government has ratified several corruption-related international treaties and conventions and is a member of major international organizations and programs dealing with corruption and organized crime. Albania has ratified the Civil Law Convention on Corruption (Council of Europe), the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (Council of Europe), the Additional Protocol to Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (Council of Europe), and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Albania has also ratified several key conventions in the broader field of economic crime, including the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime (2001) and the Convention on Cybercrime (2002). Albania has been a member of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) since the ratification of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption in 2001 and is a member of the Stability Pact Anti-Corruption Initiative (SPAI). Albania is not a member of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. Albania has adopted legislation for the protection of whistleblowers.

To curb corruption, the government announced a new platform in 2017, “ Shqiperia qe Duam ” (“The Albania We Want”), which invites citizens to submit complaints and allegations of corruption and misuse of office by government officials. The platform has a dedicated link for businesses. The Integrated Services Delivery Agency (ADISA), a government entity, provides a second online portal to report corruption. Effectiveness of the portal is minimal.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:

In February 2020, GOA approved the establishment of the Special Anticorruption and Anti-Evasion Unit which operates under the Council of Ministers. The mission of the unit is the coordination between the main public institutions, agencies and state owned companies in order to discover, investigate and punish corruption and abusive practices. The Unit is not fully operational yet.

Arlind Gjokutaj
Director
Special Anti-Corruption and Anti-Evasion Unit
Tel: 0035568 111 114
Email: Arlind.Gjokutaj@Kryeministria.al

Andorra

5. Protection of Property Rights

The Constitution guarantees the right to private ownership for citizens and residents. Both domestic and foreign private entities now have the right to establish and own business enterprises.

Real Property

Andorran law protects property rights with enforcement carried out at the administrative and judicial levels. Foreign investments for the purchase of property are possible in Andorra, subject to prior authorization. There is a four percent asset-transfer tax.

Secured property loans are available through the Andorran banking sector. The Andorran Financial Authority (AFA) oversees the banking sector, including mortgages.

Intellectual Property Rights

Andorra joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1994 and is party to the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, as well as the Rome Convention since 2004. Andorra is not a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) but holds observer status. The country’s intellectual property rights (IPR) regime is not in compliance with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Protection ofIPR in Andorra is weak. The legal framework includes the Trademarks Act of May 1, 1995, the Law 26/2014 on Patents of October 30.the Law on Authors’ and Neighboring Rights of June 1999, and Law 23/2011, of December 29, 2011, on the Creation of the Society of Collective Management of Copyright and Neighboring Rights.

In 2012, the Society for the Administration of Authors’ Rights (SDADV) was created to manage the economic rights, neighboring rights, and the interests of copyright holders. Right holders can choose whether to participate in this voluntary collective arrangement though in some cases, the collective arrangement system is compulsory.

Businesses seeking to register a trademark or a patent should contact the Andorran Trademarks Office and Patents Office.

Trademarks and Patents Office of the Principality of Andorra
Ministry of Economy
Edifici Administratiu del Prat del Rull
Cami de la Grau s/n
AD 500 Andorra La Vella
Tel. (376) 875 600
Email: ompa@andorra.ad
http://www.ompa.ad/ 

Andorra is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or included in the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

9. Corruption

Andorra’s laws penalize corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking, hostage taking, sale of illegal arms, prostitution, terrorism, as well as the financing of terrorism. Additional amendments were added in 2008, 2014, 2015, and 2016 to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code that modify and introduce money laundering and terrorism financing provisions.

In 1994, Andorra joined the Council of Europe, an institution that oversees the defense of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. That same year, the Justice Ministers of the Member States decided to fight corruption at the European level after considering that the phenomenon posed a serious threat to the stability of democratic institutions.

In early 2005, Andorra joined the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and, consequently, the fight against corruption. The Government has gradually built its internal regulations and relevant legal instruments and has undertaken numerous initiatives to improve the State’s response to reprehensible acts and conduct committed internally and internationally.

The Government created the Unit for the Prevention and the Fight against Corruption (UPLC) in 2008 to centralize and coordinate actions that might concern local administrations, national bodies, and entities with an international scope. UPLC is in charge of implementing the recommendations made by GRECO in the framework of periodic evaluation reports.

Andorra has not signed the UN Anticorruption Convention or the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

There are explicitly defined rules for the ethical behavior of all participating bodies within the Andorran financial system. The Andorran Financial Authority (AFA) has also established rules regarding ethical behavior in the financial system.

The Andorran government modified and implemented new laws in order to comply with international corruption standards. The Andorran Financial Intelligence Unit (UIFAND), created in 2000 is an independent body charged with mitigating money laundering and terrorist funding ( www.uifand.ad ).

Resources to Report Corruption:

Unitat de Prevencio i Lluita contra la Corrupcio
Ministeri de Justicia i Interior
Govern d’Andorra
Ctra.de l’Obac s/n
AD700 Escaldes-Engordany
Phone: +376 875 700
Email: uplc_govern@govern.ad 

Morocco

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Morocco permits foreign individuals and foreign companies to own land, except agricultural land. Recently passed Land Reform bill 62-19, which will open rural land acquisition to joint ventures and limited partnerships, is awaiting implementation. Foreigners may acquire agricultural land to carry out an investment or other economic project that is not agricultural in nature, subject to first obtaining a certificate of non-agricultural use from the authorities. Morocco has a formal registration system maintained by the National Agency for Real Estate Conservation, Property Registries, and Cartography (ANCFCC), which issues titles of land ownership. Approximately 30 percent of land is registered in the formal system, and almost all of that is in urban areas. In addition to the formal registration system, there are customary documents called moulkiya issued by traditional notaries called adouls. While not providing the same level of certainty as a title, a moulkiya can provide some level of security of ownership. Morocco also recognizes prescriptive rights whereby an occupant of a land under the moulkiya system (not lands duly registered with ANCFCC) can establish ownership of that land upon fulfillment of all the legal requirements, including occupation of the land for a certain period (10 years if the occupant and the landlord are not related and 40 years if the occupant is a family member). There are other specific legal regimes applicable to some types of lands, among which:

  • Collective lands: lands which are owned collectively by some tribes, whose members only benefit from rights of usufruct;
  • Public lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State;
  • Guich lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State, but whose usufruct rights are vested upon some tribes;
  • Habous lands: lands which are owned by a party (the State, a certain family, a religious or charity organization, etc.) subsequent to a donation, and the usufruct rights of which are vested upon such party (usually with the obligation to allocate the proceeds to a specific use or to use the property in a certain way).

Morocco’s rating for “Registering Property” regressed over the past year, with a ranking of 81 out of 190 countries worldwide in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report. Despite reducing the time it takes to obtain a non-encumbrance certificate, Morocco made property registration less transparent by not publishing statistics on the number of property transactions and land disputes for the previous calendar year, resulting in a lower score than in 2019.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy oversees the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC), which serves as a registry for patents and trademarks in the industrial and commercial sectors. The Ministry of Communications oversees the Moroccan Copyright Office (BMDA), which registers copyrights for literary and artistic works (including software), enforces copyright protection, and coordinates with Moroccan and international partners to combat piracy.

In 2020, OMPIC launched its second strategic plan, Strategic Vision 2025, following the conclusion of its 2016-2020 strategic plan. The new 2025 plan has three pillars: the creation of an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation; the establishment of an effective system for the protection and defense of intellectual property rights; and the implementation of economic and regional actions to enhance intangible assets and market-oriented research and development. In 2016 OMPIC partnered with the European Patent Office and developed an agreement  for validating European patents in Morocco, and now receives roughly 80 percent of total applications via this channel. In 2020, OMPIC recorded a 25 percent increase of the patent applications filed domestically.

In 2016, the Ministry of Communication and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) signed an MOU to expand cooperation to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights in Morocco. The memorandum committed both parties to improving the judicial and operational dimensions of Morocco’s copyright enforcement. Following this MOU, in 2016, BMDA launched WIPOCOS, a database for collective royalty management organizations or societies, developed by WIPO. Despite these positive changes, BMDA’s current focus on redefining its legal mandate and relationship with other copyright offices worldwide has appeared to lessen its enforcement capacity.

Law No. 23-13 on Intellectual Property Rights increased penalties for violation of those rights and better defines civil and criminal jurisdiction and legal remedies. It also set in motion an accreditation system for patent attorneys to better systematize and regulate the practice of patent law. Law No. 34-05, amending and supplementing Law No. 2-00 on Copyright and Related Rights includes 15 items (Articles 61 to 65) devoted to punitive measures against piracy and other copyright offenses. These range from civil and criminal penalties to the seizure and destruction of seized copies. Judges’ authority in sentencing and criminal procedures is proscribed, with little power to issue harsher sentences that would serve as stronger deterrents.

Moroccan authorities express a commitment to cracking down on all types of counterfeiting, but due to resource constraints, focus enforcement efforts on the most problematic areas, specifically those with public safety and/or significant economic impacts. In 2017, BMDA brought approximately a dozen court cases against copyright infringers and collected $6.1 million in copyright collections. In 2018, Morocco’s customs authorities seized $62.7 million worth of counterfeit items. In 2018, Morocco also created a National Customs Brigade charged with countering the illicit trafficking of counterfeit goods and narcotics.

In 2015, Morocco and the European Union concluded an agreement on the protection of Geographic Indications (GIs), which is pending ratification by both the Moroccan and European parliaments. Should it enter into force, the agreement would grant Moroccan GIs sui generis. The U.S. government continues to urge Morocco to pursue a transparent and substantive assessment process for the EU GIs in a manner consistent with Morocco’s existing obligations, including those under the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement.

Morocco is not listed in USTR’s most recent Special 301 Report or notorious markets reports.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/. For assistance, please refer to the U.S. Embassy local lawyers’ list, as well as to the regional U.S. IP Attaché .

Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

Peter Mehravari
Patent Attorney
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Tel: +965 2259 1455
Peter.Mehravari@trade.gov 

9. Corruption

In Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index , Morocco maintained the same score of 40 but moved down six spots in the rankings (from 80th to 86th out of 180 countries). According to the State Department’s 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, Moroccan law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches during the year.

According to the Global Corruption Barometer Africa 2019 report published in July 2019, 53 percent of Moroccans surveyed think corruption increased in the previous 12 months, 31 percent of public services users paid a bribe in the previous 12 months, and 74 percent believe the government is doing a bad job in tackling corruption.

The 2011 constitution mandated the creation of a national anti-corruption entity. Morocco formally established the National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption (INPLCC) but did not become it operational until 2018 when its board was appointed by the king. The INPLCC is tasked with initiating, coordinating, and overseeing the implementation of policies for the prevention and fight against corruption, as well as gathering and disseminating information on the issue. Additionally, Morocco’s anti-corruption efforts include enhancing the transparency of public tenders and implementation of a requirement that senior government officials submit financial disclosure statements at the start and end of their government service, although their family members are not required to make such disclosures. Few public officials submitted such disclosures, and there are no effective penalties for failing to comply. Morocco does not have conflict of interest legislation. In 2018, thanks to the passage of an Access to Information (AI) law, Morocco joined the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral effort to make governments more transparent.

Although the Moroccan government does not require that private companies establish internal codes of conduct, the Moroccan Institute of Directors (IMA) was established in June 2009 with the goal of bringing together individuals, companies, and institutions willing to promote corporate governance and conduct. IMA published the four Moroccan Codes of Good Corporate Governance Practices. Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. Morocco signed the UN Convention against Corruption in 2007 and hosted the States Parties to the Convention’s Fourth Session in 2011. However, Morocco does not provide any formal protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption. Although the U.S. Mission is not aware of cases involving corruption regarding customs or taxation issues, American businesses report encountering unexpected delays and requests for documentation that is not required under the FTA or standardized shipping norms.

Resources to Report Corruption

National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption 
Avenue Annakhil, Immeuble High Tech, Hall B, 3eme etage, Hay Ryad-Rabat
+212-5 37 57 86 60
inpplc@inpplc.ma

Transparency International National Chapter 
24 Boulevard de Khouribga, Casablanca 20250
Telephone number: +212-22-542 699
transparency@menara.ma

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