Bulgarian President Blasts Land Sale Moratorium
Bulgarian President, Rosen Plevneliev, says the Parliament's decision to extend the moratorium on agricultural land sale to foreigners was "wrong."
According to Plevneliev, it was unfortunate, created a negative image of the country, and would discourage investors.
"In all cases, the cost of this decision will be paid by the Bulgarian taxpayers. I believe it is extremely unproductive; it is wrong for a State to give up its priorities; to strike what it has signed through its highest authority, namely the Bulgarian Parliament," the President said Wednesday.
It was reported meanwhile that the liberal, predominantly Ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) is preparing full force to refer the case to the Constitutional Court.
On Tuesday, Bulgaria's Parliament controversially decided to extend the ban on sale of agricultural land to foreigners until 2020.
The proposal for the extension was made by ultranationalist anti-EU party Ataka, a sort of a kingmaker for the Socialist-led government. Surprisingly, it was backed by both the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party and the opposition center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB.
A total of 171 lawmakers voted in favor of extending the moratorium, while 38 were against and 12 abstained from voting. The biggest surprise were the Socialists, because all, except one, who took part in the debates, urged to reject Ataka's proposal, but at the end 59 of a total of 75 BSP MPs present voted in its favor.
The European Commission warned that this would breach Bulgaria's commitment to lift the moratorium, which expires at the end of 2013.
Chantal Hughes, spokeswoman for European Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier said Bulgaria's accession treaty did not provide for any extension period on barring land sales and EC expected Bulgaria to open its market in compliance with its commitments.
If Bulgaria wants the moratorium to remain in force after the beginning of next year, then it will have to receive support from all the rest of the EU member states. This means a review of the pre-accession treaty as well as re-ratifying by all the 28 EU member states.
Any such review could result in Bulgaria being targeted by reciprocal action by member states, potentially extending labor market restrictions on Bulgarians by other EU countries, EurActiv said.
From January 1, 2014, Bulgarians will have full access to all EU countries' labor markets following the lifting of temporary restrictions put in place by several countries when Bulgaria joined the bloc in 2007.
The moratorium has been blasted not only by DPS, but by all right-wing parties, which currently are not parliamentary represented, by the Speaker of the Parliament, Mihail Mikov, and other senior BSP functionaries, and by a number of legal experts.
The ban actually extends only to EU citizens, who still can purchase land in Bulgaria by setting and registering a company for the fee of BGN 2.
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I doubt if the other 27 EU countries would agree to the moratorium bearing in mind that so many of their citizens have bought property in rural areas of Bulgaria. Maybe Bulgaria needs to decide whether it wants to stay in the EU at all - after all it should be understood that something must be given in return for all the EU money it receives.