As was expected, Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court unanimously declared unconstitutional, in a January 28 ruling, a resolution by the National Assembly in October 2013 calling for an extension to 2020 of the moratorium on the sale of land to foreigners and foreign legal entities, media reports said.
The court found the resolution to contradict Bulgaria’s constitution and the country’s European Union accession treaty.
The constitution allows the sale of land to foreigners on the legal basis of Bulgaria’s EU membership or through an international treaty, as well as by hereditary succession.
Bulgaria’s EU accession treaty provided for a seven-year moratorium on the sale of land to foreigners, from accession on January 1 2007 to its scheduled expiry on January 1 2014.
Parliament’s resolution in October, which was proposed by ultra-nationalist Ataka party leader Volen Siderov, was approved after several hours of debate and with the support of votes from several members of the current ruling party – the Bulgarian Socialist Party – and centre-right opposition party GERB.
The move caused a drama in BSP ranks because members of its parliamentary group voted against the wishes of their party leadership, and it also caused ructions with the BSP’s ruling axis partner, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which then initiated a petition to the Constitutional Court against the resolution.
Bulgaria’s cabinet had, in effect, refused to implement the resolution.
Ataka has vowed to raise signatures among the public for a national referendum on the issue, but while it was launched some months ago, nothing has been heard about it since. Critics said that holding a referendum on the issue would, in effect, be holding a referendum on whether Bulgaria should be a member of the EU.
Even during the years of the moratorium, it was customarily skirted by foreigners establishing Bulgarian-registered companies and then using these to buy real estate.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)