Bulgarian President Vetoes Amendments to Agricultural Land Act

Politics » DOMESTIC | April 14, 2014, Monday // 20:10
Bulgaria: Bulgarian President Vetoes Amendments to Agricultural Land Act Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, photo by BGNES

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has returned to Parliament a set of amendments to the Agricultural Land Ownership and Use Act due to clashes with the Constitution and EU law.

The amendments provide that property rights over agricultural land can be obtained by natural or legal persons that have resided or have been registered in Bulgaria for a period of over 5 years, according to the press office of the government.

The legal changes initially envisaged a 3-year period of residence but it was extended to 5 years between the first and second reading stages.

Plevneliev opposes the recent practice of submitting bills without providing an analysis of their compliance with the Bulgarian Constitution and EU law, according to a media statement.

Plevneliev points out that the Constitution envisages different regimes for acquiring title depending on the citizenship of the buyer.

He underscores that the proposed set of amendments replaces the constitutionally-enshrined citizenship requirement with the requirement for a period of residence of 5+ years for acquiring ownership of agricultural land.

Bulgaria's President says that the legal changes introduce an unconstitutional ban preventing Bulgarian citizens from buying agricultural land unless they have resided in Bulgaria for more than 5 years.

"The President cannot possibly agree to the Parliament introducing a ban on Bulgarian citizens acquiring ownership of agricultural land," Plevneliev says, adding that the measure will render over 2 million Bulgarian citizens living abroad unable to acquire title.

The President accuses lawmakers of introducing bans instead of creating conditions which encourage Bulgarians living abroad to engage in business activity and develop the economy through investments in agriculture.

"The Constitution establishes two regimes for acquiring title for foreign nationals, one for citizens of EU member states, and one for non-EU citizens. Natural and legal persons from third countries can only acquire title under an international treaty ratified by 2/3 majority in Parliament, according to the Constitution," Plevneliev reminds.

Stressing that agricultural land is a national treasure which must be preserved, Plevneliev condemns the adoption of laws which allow ambiguous interpretation and pave the way for third-country citizens acquiring ownership of agricultural land after 5+ years of residence.

The media statement also draws attention to the fact that the set of legal amendments constitutes a unilateral restriction of freedoms of the EU internal market such as the right to settlement and the right of free movement of capital in the EU.

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Tags: Rosen Plevneliev, Agricultural Land Ownership Act, agricultural land sale, Bulgarian Constitution, EU law, Bulgarian President, veto, citizenship
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