Amendments to Serbia’s agriculture law will restrict farmland sales to foreigners, as farmers have demanded – but they complained that they have not been consulted on the details of the legislation itself.
The Association of Farmers welcomed changes to restrict farmland sales to foreigners – which it demanded during protests in 2015 – but said it had not been consulted on the legal amendments which are to be adopted urgently and without public debate.
“We heard from the minister that the new amendments to the law, which will be restrictive to foreigners who want to buy Serbian agricultural land, which was one of our proposals during the protests, but we never got any document from them [the agriculture ministry],” Miroslav Kis from the Serbian Association of Farmers told BIRN.
The Association of Farmers was one of the mass protests in 2015, when Serbian Government announced the adoption of the new Law on Agricultural Land which gave more power to agricultural companies interested in owning land, at the expense of local farmers.
The changes were seen as an open door for foreign companies to buy Serbian agricultural land.
The Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, which the Serbian government signed in 2008, which requires the authorities to permit the sale of land to foreigners.
But Serbian officials announced recently that the new legal changes will ensure that foreigners who want to buy agricultural land in Serbia will have to fulfil certain conditions, such as having permanent residence in the country for several years.
“We said in 2015 that the new law was harmful to Serbian farmers and partly unmanageable, and now we see that we were right as new amendments have been announced,” Kis said.
However, he warned that farmers were ready to take to the streets again if other measures contained in the new amendments are unacceptable to them.
“As there are no public debates and we don’t know what the new amendments will bring, we will organise protests again if this is necessary,” Kis said.
Serbian Agriculture Minister Branislav Nedimovic told the Insajder news website on Thursday that the draft of the law has been handed over to the government.
“In the coming days, a session of parliament will be called,” he said.
“There was no public debate, but for the past year we have been in touch with various organisations of agricultural producers and they are all satisfied with this solution,” he added.
But Kis insisted that neither the Association of Farmers nor other significant organisations had been contacted.
“It seems like again we are not perceived as partners. They don’t want to listen to us. Which could mean they want to make new changes which will be bad for us,” he said.