Bulgaria's Socialists Slammed for Curbs on Land Sale to EU Investors
Bulgaria's analysts and media have harshly criticized ruling Socialists for shepherding new legislative curbs on the sale of arable land to investors from the EU.
EU investors will be denied the chance to buy up land unless they have had permanent residence in Bulgaria at least three years prior to the deal, reads the proposal, moved to parliament by Socialist MPs earlier this month.
The proposed changes, however, feature also a permanent residence requirement for legal persons too.
In practice, that means that newly established companies will be allowed to buy up arable land only if its owners are Bulgarian citizens or foreigners, who have been residing in Bulgaria for at least three years.
According to analysts this requirement distorts the market, making it accessible only for companies, set up more than three years ago.
Initiators of the restrictions cite as their model the legislation in other EU countries.
Experts have commented however that restrictions on the sale to foreigners in other EU member states concern primarily land plots located close to the border or strategic military sites.
Bulgaria's top court revoked at the end of January a ban on selling arable land to investors from the European Union, which opponents said put the country's European future at stake.
The European Commission warned that this would breach Bulgaria's commitment to lift the moratorium, which expired at the end of 2013.
On October 22, 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 kingmaker for the Socialist-led government. Surprisingly, it was backed by both the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, 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.
Foreigners from outside the EU have been allowed to acquire land in the Black Sea state through Bulgarian-registered companies since the country joined the EU in 2007.
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