Bulgarian Justice Min: Land Sale Moratorium Has No Legal Value

Bulgaria in EU | October 24, 2013, Thursday // 11:21|  views

Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister, Zinaida Zlatanova, photo by BGNES

The Parliament's decision to extend the moratorium on the purchase of land by foreigners has no legal value, according to Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister, Zinaida Zlatanova.

Speaking for "Focus" news agency, Zlatanova explained that at the Wednesday cabinet meeting, Prime Minister, Plamen Oresharski, had instructed her, in her capacity of Minister of Justice and Deputy Prime Minister, to prepare the government's decision regarding the moratorium.

"Perhaps at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers, we will be ready with our opinion on this issue. Personally for me, as a lawyer, the decision of the Parliament has no legal value and cannot be executed. It's like the Bulgarian Parliament assigning a mandatory task to the government of France or Belgium, for example," said the Minister of Justice.

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 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 liberal, predominantly Ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) is preparing to refer the case to the Constitutional Court, which is expected to overturn the moratorium.

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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Tags: Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Minister, Zinaida Zlatanova, DPS, Movement for Rights and Freedoms, BSP, Constitutional Court, Speaker of the Parliament, Mihail Mikov, Rosen Plevneliev, president, restrictions, labor market, Bulgarian Socialist Party, Plamen Oresharski, Ataka, GERB, agricultural land, sale, ban, moratorium, EC, EU, European Commission, labor market


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