Bulgaria envisages huge fines for third-country foreigners using companies to buy land

The agriculture committee of Bulgaria’s Parliament has approved legislative proposals that would means fines of 50 000 to 100 000 leva (about 25 000 to 50 000 euro) for companies owned by foreigners from outside the European Union that own land in Bulgaria.

The provision, yet to be approved by the National Assembly as a whole, is planned to come into effect as of January 1 2015.

This is the latest twist in the saga around the seven-year moratorium barring foreigners from buying land in Bulgaria, that came to an end on January 1 2014. A late 2013 attempt by the National Assembly to extend the moratorium to 2020 was rejected by the Constitutional Court.

Legislation has now been tabled that would allow the purchase of agricultural land in Bulgaria only by companies registered in the EU or in third countries with which Bulgaria has a bilateral agreement on the matter.

Foreigners from countries outside the EU that have used their companies to buy land will have to re-register their companies, according to the proposed legislation.

However, this will be possible only if they can prove that the companies and it associates have been operating in Bulgaria for at least three years.

Failure to meet these conditions and retaining the land will mean a fine from 50 000 to 100 000 leva, depending on how much land is owned by the company.

Svetla Buchvarova, the Bulgarian Socialist Party MP who chairs the agriculture committee, was quoted by local media as saying that the proposal for the fine came from members of centre-right opposition party GERB, but was supported unanimously by all members of the committee.

There even had been a proposal that companies that did not meet the requirements should have their land confiscated after January 1 2015, but this had not been accepted by the committee, “we’ll see if it is adopted in the plenary session,” Buchvarova said.

The amendments to the Ownership and Use of Agricultural Land Act provide that offshore companies would not be able to buy either state or privately-owned agricultural land.

Foreigners would be able to buy land only after three years’ residence in the country. There will be an exception allowing foreigners to acquire land through inheritance.

(Photo: Dido Ivanov)



The Sofia Globe staff

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