At the initiative of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, all groups in the National Assembly except one have agreed to the withdrawal of legislative amendments intended at opening up the sale of agricultural land to foreigners.
Bulgaria, on becoming a member of the European Union in 2007, was allowed to have a seven-year moratorium on the sale of farmland to foreigners.
The country’s National Assembly, however, legislated after the end of the moratorium a legal requirement that a foreigner wanting to buy farmland should have been resident in the country for five years. The European Commission has signalled that this is a violation of EU principles and Bulgaria could face hefty financial penalties.
A few days after the proposed amendments were announced, BSP leader Kornelia Ninova told reporters in Parliament on July 19 that after consultations, all parliamentary groups had agreed to withdrawing the amendments. Instead, there would be consultations for two months among MPs from all parties, and the European Commission would be asked about the possibility of imposing restrictions.
Each time the issue of opening up the sale of land to foreigners has come up, the BSP has taken the view that this will push up prices out of the reach of Bulgarians and result in speculative purchases. Ninova said that the proposed amendments had lacked sufficient control over who could buy farmland.
Agricultural land was, she said, a “national treasure” and was intended to be worked, and the amendments made no provision that this would actually happen.
MRF MP Burhan Abazov said that his party’s opposition to a ban or restrictions on the sale of Bulgarian farmland to foreigners had been consistent and principled over the years. When it joined the EU in 2007, Bulgaria had signed up to its principles, he said.
Article 49 of the EU treaty provided that there can be no restriction on the right of establishment of nationals of one EU member state in another EU member state. This right of establishments includes the rights, for instance, to self-employment and to property ownership.
(Photo: Max Pixel)