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News 14 Jul 17

Bulgaria May Scrap Barriers on Foreigners Buying Land

Under EU pressure - and to avoid heavy fines - the Bulgarian government is moving to remove barriers against the acquisition of agricultural land by foreign citizens.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
Farm land in Bulgaria. Photo: don kokone/Wikimedia Commons

Bulgaria’s Ministry of Agriculture and Foods has called for the legal barriers preventing foreign citizens from buying agricultural land to be scrapped, Minister Rumen Porozhanov said on Friday.

In an interview for BTV, the minister said the current requirement could lead to serious European sanctions being imposed.

As the law now stands, foreign citizens and companies must prove they have been settled in Bulgaria for at least five five years in order to buy farm land.

The law was introduced in 2014 by the then Socialist-led government of Plamen Oresharski.

In March that year, MPs initially introduced a condition of three years of settlement in the county for acquiring agricultural property.

This was later extended to five years on the demand of the nationalist ATAKA party, which is currently part of the coalition government led by Boyko Borissov.

The 2014 law “violates at least three articles from the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and two decisions of the Court of Justice of the EU,” Porozhanov said, adding that by the end of September Bulgaria risks being taken to the court for infringing European legislation.

To avoid EU sanctions, the ministry has filed draft changes to the Agricultural Land Ownership and Use act, which will allow EU citizens and citizens of third countries to buy farm land without limitations.

The document is now up for public discussion. If MPs do not back the proposed amendments by the end of September, Bulgaria will likely have to pay an initial fine of 900,000 euros with a daily interest of 600 euros until it put its legislation in line with that of the EU.

Porozhanov promised that the ministry will look at other ways to create barriers against the uncontrolled acquisition of farm land, which are compatible with EU rules.

The European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Bulgaria for breaching the principle of free movement of people and capitals by introducing and extending the ban on buying farm land.

Together with Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia, Bulgaria received a last warning to take action in May 2016 before the Commission brings the infringement procedure to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

 

 

 

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