|A citizen in central Tirana. Photo: Ivana Dervishi/BIRN|
Getting around Albania – and even sending letters or packages by post – remains a major challenge in Albania for foreigners and local residents alike.
The majority of people are still unsure about the exact address of their homes or businesses.
The reason for this muddle is that while Albania inherited the old system of addresses built up in the communist era, since the regime collapsed 26 years ago, the system has been left to run amok. This problem affects many other aspects of everyday life in Albania.
As Bledar Doracaj, director of the Civilian Registrar project, says, without a centralized and regulated register of addresses, neither the central government nor local authorities can guarantee citizens access to key public services.
“Without a clear database on which people are registered as inhabitants, the state cannot provide them with proper social services, starting from healthcare to school registering for children,” he told BIRN.
Years of political and administrative changes, massive migration and immigration, illegal construction, and finally the lack of any firm regulation of the process of naming streets, have combined to wreak chaos with the address system.
A project that envisaged the creation of new address system for the capital, Tirana, started in 2010 – but only the centre of the capital has benefited from this as yet.
The situation has been made even worse by the major administrative reform conducted during 2014 and 2015.
During this process, 61 new municipalities were created out of more than 300 former units, making the need for a complete review and overhaul of what was left from the address system even more urgent.
In November 2015, the then interior minister, Saimir Tahiri, unveiled a new government initiative to create a structured register of addresses in the country, designed to end decades of confusion over people’s home and business addresses. Preparation of the administrative part of the project lasted more than a year.
In January, former minister Tahiri and the Prime Minister, Edi Rama, presented the start of a new phase in the process, in which registers will knock on the door of every home or office to ask the inhabitants to fill in forms, which will then enable them to get their new addresses.
“How can a serious and fair service for all citizens function in a state when there is no system of integrated addresses?” Rama asked at the ceremonial inauguration of the new phase of the project.
Director of the Civilian Registrar Doracaj told BIRN that the agency is determined to ensure that the new system is not implemented partially but covers the entire country.
“In cases where citizens do not to reply the registers’ call to declare their home and businesses address, the communal police is going to come and provide help,” he said.
He emphasized that by July 28 all citizens who are registered in one place but live in another will have to record their current living place in the local administration.
“If this isn’t done within the deadline, we are going to apply a fine [of around 75 euros]. We have to do it, as the current chaotic situation must be ended,” Doracaj said.
He said that citizens themselves will be the first to benefit from the new regulated address system.
Even after this part of the project comes to the end, the project will continue, however. Namely, the government is expected to erect new signs on all roads and squares, all over the country, a process for which the government seeking donors’ support.
Despite the obvious future benefits of a more regulated and centralized address system, the new initiative has had some unexpected side-effects.
Some residents of Tirana – who were lucky enough to keep their addresses unchanged since the communist era – are far from happy their addresses are now changing, too.
“They changed the name of my street from Muhamed Gjollesha to Sulejman Delvina, the number of building and the number of my apartment,” Tatjana Peci a 65-year-old pensioner complained to BIRN.
“Now I will have to memorize it – and send my new address to all my relatives living abroad.”