At the end of 2019, a draft of the new Agricultural Land Act was announced to improve the regulation regarding the ownership, use and management of agricultural land. In view of the growing criticism, the adoption of the law was delayed by at least another 12 months for another revision of some of the texts. However, in this article, we will highlight the major changes that are expected to be adopted in the near future.
- EU citizens shall be entitled to acquire agricultural land
EU citizens will be entitled to acquire agricultural land in Bulgaria regardless of their period of residence in the country according to the draft. The change was imposed in connection with the infringement procedure of the European Commission against Bulgaria in connection with the contradiction of the Bulgarian legislation with certain provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
This amendment will almost certainly be accepted under the proposed option.
- Voluntary consolidation of agricultural land
The bill provides for the establishment of a procedure for voluntary land consolidation of agricultural land with a change of property rights, in order to overcome the fragmentation of land ownership and create prerequisites for increasing the efficiency of use and protection of agricultural land.
The voluntary consolidation will be carried out by agreement between the owners and approval of a plan for consolidation by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. The plan may also envisage the creation of additional infrastructure for irrigation, erosion control and others. The consolidation plan envisages that agricultural properties – state or municipal property – may be included, in which case the agreement is signed by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, respectively by the mayor of the municipality or by persons authorized by them.
The property right will be transferred on the basis of a decision of the Municipal Agriculture Office, which will have the power of a notary deed.
Most likely most of the texts shall be amended but as far as the need of such legislation exists, familiar test will surely be adopted.
- Changing the terms of agricultural land use contracts
The requirement for a minimum 5-year lease term and the conclusion by co-owners of more than half of the common property is maintained. No minimum term rule has been introduced for rental and co-cultivation contracts – they can be concluded by co-owners who own more than 25 percent of the land ownership.
- Changes regarding the protection of agricultural land and change of their purpose
In the draft the provisions in force relating to the protection of agricultural land and the procedures for approving the site and / or route and changing the purpose have been systematized in successive chapters and sections, with new rules being introduced in part of the procedures.
A ban on construction in agricultural lands was introduced without carrying out a procedure for changing their purpose, in cases where illegal construction was found to have taken place.
In the case of construction in agricultural lands without carrying out a procedure for changing their purpose, a ban is prescribed in cases where agricultural lands with permanent use are used – pastures, meadows and meadows included in the “Permanently grassed area” layer.
It is envisaged to explicitly regulate the hypotheses in which the committees whose authority is responsible for approving sites and/ or routes refuse to approve a design site when: there is a possibility for the site to be built on other land in the same land that is less productive and/or unfit for agricultural use; the proposed site and/or design route does not comply with hygiene and construction requirements or with restrictions imposed under other laws; the site is located within the range of roads of the national road network, which allows the construction of only road links to the sites.
An amendment has been made to the deadlines for the validity of the decision to change the purpose of agricultural land. In order to alleviate the administrative burden, the requirement to issue a building permit within three years of the entry into force of the decision to change the purpose of agricultural land shall be eliminated.
Please note that these and other amendments provided for in the bill may undergo major changes. This article is for information only and is intended to address some specific requirements of legislation. The team of Ilieva, Voutcheva & Co. Law Firm will inform you regarding the development of this issue.