Foreigners wanting to buy agricultural land in Serbia will have to take residence in our country for at least seven years, while foreign legal entities will have to be registered with the Serbian Business Registers Agency for at least five years before being allowed to buy land.
This is what the draft Law on Agricultural Land says. The Ministry of Agriculture’s task force is supposed to finish the draft by the end of next week and the new law is supposed to be in force from 1st September, 2017.
There is still some confusion regarding certain issues relating to this law, namely how long should foreigners have legal ties to Serbia before they are allowed to buy land. However, most of the members of the task force believe that the new law would provide enough of protection to domicile farmers.
Agriculture Minister, Branislav Nedimovic has said recently that the state authorities would support the concept where foreigners would have to take residence in Serbia for a certain amount of time, and this is equally applicable to individuals and legal entities. Only by doing so, they will be eligible to own agricultural land in Serbia.
Agriculture expert, Milan Prostran agrees with the government on this, i.e. to enforcing the residence criteria, but he thinks the residence should be at least 10 years.
“We should also limit the size of the land that foreigners can buy to, let’s say, a maximum of 100 hectares, while the third prerequisite should be that a foreign individual or a foreign company should be in the agri-business for at least five years before purchasing land here”, Prostran underlines.
With these limitations in place, Serbia could partially fix the unfavourable situation that was a result of our country signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) in 2008 according to which Serbia should allow foreigners to buy agricultural land as of 1st September, 2017. Serbia is the only country, in the course of the EU accession talks, to have agreed to liberalize the sale of agricultural land, while other countries agreed to do so only when they join the EU.
“If we are not able to adopt these new amendments on time, another option would be to apply the model that Hungary used which, back in the day, had a referendum and asked its citizens whether to allow the sale of agricultural land to foreigners. Since 80% of Hungarians said ‘no’, they amended their Constitution to include the ban on the sale of land to foreigners. This is probably one of more extreme examples”, Milan Prostran adds.