Nineteen European countries are violating religious rights, and religious minorities in some East European countries now face greater difficulties than they did during the communist period, according to the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF).

The editor of the federation's 1998 annual report on human rights said that protection of religious freedom was deteriorating across Europe as governments in both east and west of the region showed a "similar tendency" to strengthen traditional faiths at the cost of minorities.Religious rights violations are mentioned in 19 countries: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Romania, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia (including Kosovo and Montenegro).

Sixteen former communist states are among those criticized in the report for their violations of religious freedom.

Pressure on religious minorities was also strong, the report added.