Land Purchase Ban Extended in Bulgaria, Ignoring EU Warning

Written by | Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Bulgaria’s parliament extended a ban on arable land purchases by foreign investors until 2020 yesterday (22 October) even though it’s been faced with warnings from Brussels that it would result in a review of its accession treaty. According to the accession agreement that Sofia signed to join the bloc in 2007, Bulgaria’s ban was set to expire on Jan. 1 and any move to break that deal would trigger EU infringement procedures.
As a justification of its move, Bulgaria, the poorest EU member country, argues that land prices in the country are still below those in more affluent states and that a surge in foreign demand would damage domestic farmers’ ability to buy land. While a representative of Ataka, a nationalist and anti-EU party, asserted that “we must prevent the plundering of Bulgaria’s most valuable resource,” the Agriculture Ministry announced earlier that entrepreneurs from countries such as Qatar and Bahrain had expressed interest in buying Bulgarian land. Currently, foreigners are allowed to acquire land in the country only through a registered Bulgarian company.
According to the European Internal Markets Commission, Bulgaria’s accession treaty did not provide for any extension period on barring land sales. To extend the moratorium on its arable land purchase by foreigners, Bulgaria would have to receive support from all the rest of the EU member states. This would entail a review of the pre-accession treaty as well as re-ratifying by all the 28 EU member states, whereby any such review could result in Bulgaria being targeted by reciprocal action by other EU member states.

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