01. Sep 2017
The amendments to the Law on agricultural land, which are focused on prevention from the total liberalization of the agricultural land trade, all according to the provisions of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, had been adopted at the extraordinary session of the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, which was held on 28 August 2017. The amendments to the law had come into force the next day from the day of publishing in the Official Gazette, and the law started to apply as of 1 September 2017.
The issue regarding the acquisition of agricultural land had been in focus of public attention during the previous period. This topic, apart from its major economic consequences, potentially has a political connotation having in mind that agricultural land is considered as a resource of the first-degree importance. It is no surprise that a vast amount of public pressure had been focused to the change of legislative rules in a way to avoid the possibility of loss regarding the state control in this sphere, which would potentially provoke long-lasting consequences to the internal and external plans.
Namely, the general aim of the Stabilization and Association Agreement is the determination of rules for comprehensive partnership between Serbia and EU, in order to support the progress of Serbia towards joining the European Union. In this regard, the provisions of the agreement also regulate the question of agriculture sector, which was the reason for suggesting the changes and amendments to the Law on agricultural land. Serbia is the only country which accepted the obligation to liberalize the agricultural land market during the negotiations, before it becomes the full member of the EU, while other countries even managed to attain a multiyear prohibition of land sale to the foreigners.
Having in mind this fact, according to the newest amendments to the law, the citizen of the country which is the member of the European Union shall be able to acquire the ownership on an agricultural land by a legal transaction, with or without payment, only if he/she fulfills very restrictively set conditions, as follows:
- To have a domicile in Serbia, i.e. in local self-government unit where he/she wants to purchase the land, for not less than ten years,
- To have cultivated the land for at least three years,
- To have registered agricultural holding in an active status and to be its holder, for not less than 10 years without discontinuation,
- To have necessary mechanization for agricultural production.
Very important limitation is established by a provision which envisages that a citizen of the country which is a member of the European Union may, by a legal transaction, acquire 2 hectares of an agricultural land at most. Having in mind this limitation, it seems like the intention of the legislator was to condemn the possibility of acquisition of an agricultural land in the extent which may provoke adverse effects and potential manipulations on the market.
The subject of a legal transaction cannot be an agricultural land which is assigned as a construction area, according to the special law, the land located in border area, as well as the land which is considered to be a protected natural good. The agricultural land which belongs, or borders with military facilities and military complex is also exempted.