Bulgaria backtracks on moratorium banning land purchase

Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's minority cabinet has resigned.

This article is part of our special report Agriculture.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski and other main political players said yesterday (24 October) that a bill extending a moratorium on arable land purchases by foreigners, which the country’s parliament passed on Tuesday,  would be reconsidered. 

"The decision was a result of political emotion, it was not rational. We will find a way to review it," Oresharski said in a statement from Brussels, where he is due to meet European Commission President José Manuel Barroso today (25 October).

The leaders of the country’s two largest political forces, the centre-left Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the centre-right Citizens for a European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) were in Brussels yesterday for the pre-summit meetings ahead of the EU summit. BSP leader Sergei Stanishev is also leader of the Party of European Socialists.

Speaking to the press at the PES pre-summit meeting, Stanishev said the Parliament’s decision was ‘emotional” and “not a working one”.

‘Collective madness’

At the EPP gatering Borissov made a similar comment, saying that the Parliament had suddenly become “prey of collective madness”.

Bulgaria's parliament on 22 October extended a moratorium on arable land purchases by foreign investors until 2020 despite warnings from the European Union that it would result in a review of its accession treaty.

59 of the 84 MPs from BSP and all the GERB MPs present voted in favour of extending the moratorium, which was initiated by the nationalist party Ataka.

Apparently, many Socialist deputies fear that low land prices in the EU's poorest member state could trigger a surge in foreign purchases of land and price domestic farmers out of the market.

Under its accession treaty, Bulgaria's moratorium on EU citizens' purchase of arable land is due to expire on 1 January 2014, seven years after it joined the bloc, and any violation of the accord could possibly trigger heavy fines.

Economists branded the move as damaging to Bulgaria's image among foreign investors, already tarnished by rampant graft.

Foreigners can currently acquire land in Bulgaria through a registered Bulgarian company. 

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