Does Toennies stand to lose land in Vojvodina again?

A new dispute is underway before the Administrative Court in Novi Sad regarding the allocation of state-owned agricultural land to the German meat producer, Toennies, which was initiated last year by the Association of Farmers of Banat.

While in Germany, the Toennies Company has been called out because of its links to Sigmar Gabriel, former vice-chancellor and head of the Social Democrats in Germany, who allegedly assisted the company with investing in Serbia, there is still no progress in the announced project, worth dozens of millions of euros, in Serbia.

“In the previous two years, we have won disputes against the Provincial Secretariat for Agriculture due to the allocation of land to this so-called investor. At the beginning of last year, the Administrative Court overturned the decision on the allocation of land to Toennies in the area of Zrenjanin. Then, the Provincial Secretariat allocated this land to Toennies again, after which we initiated an administrative dispute for the second time. As far as I understand, the court can return the ruling for reconsideration twice, after which it has to order for the ruling to be changed, “explains farmer Slavko Vukov from Zrenjanin.

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Although it was planned for Toennies to get 5,000 hectares of agricultural land in Kikinda, Zrenjanin, Sečanj, Vršac and Plandište in 2017, the investment is still a long way off, so the land is currently leased. In Zrenjanin alone, 2,400 hectares of the best land has been set aside for the German meat company.

“As far as I know, that land is leased for a period of one year every year, and it is leased at high prices that an ordinary farmer cannot pay. We are not giving up on the dispute. The state-owned agricultural land should be available to Serbian farmers at auctions,” says Slavko Vukov.

The Administrative Court in Novi Sad ruled that the decision to allocate land to Toennies for the period of 30 years was contrary to the law, i.e. that the competition’s criteria for allocation of this land were not adhered to.

As stated, the court accepted the criticism of the Association of Farmers of Banat that the company Toennies Invest d.o.o. it has no recognizability on the market, as well as no references and capacities for the realization of such investment project.

To remind, according to the German daily Der Spiegel, Sigmar Gabriel called Clemens Toennies, among others, before a trip to Serbia in November 2014. There, both attended a dinner at the invitation of the then Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic. The minister was accompanied by an economic delegation.

Der Spiegel also refers to media reports close to the industry from the time that Toennies should have had a great interest in Serbia as an export market and production location at the time. “Apparently, the meat baron Tonnies already had privileged access to the then president of the SPD, who also served as Minister of Economy and who received from Tonnies between March and May of this year a contract worth 10,000 euro per month and four-digit per diems to check the possibility of exporting Tonnies’ meat to China via the New Silk Road as well as to negotiate with the Chinese Minister of Agriculture on cases of African swine fever,” the German political weekly Panorama reported.

(Danas, 19.08.2020)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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