GEO

The new moratorium on the sale of agricultural land to foreign citizens is also unconstitutional

28 June, 2017

On June 16, the Parliament of Georgia adopted a legislative amendment that place a moratorium on the sale of agricultural land to foreign citizens and stateless persons with the third and final hearing. The amendments to the Law on Agricultural Land Ownership were jointly initiated by a number of MPs. [1]

The purpose of the amendment

According to the proposed initiative, Article 4.1.b. of the Law on Agricultural Land Ownership is being suspended until the amendments to the country’s Constitution are adopted. More specifically, the following entities will no longer be able to purchase agricultural land in Georgia:

  • Foreigners
  • Legal entities registered abroad
  • Legal entities registered by foreigners in Georgia in accordance with Georgian legislation

 

According to the explanatory note of the proposed initiative, Georgia is a country with a small amount of land, with an average of 0.24 hectares of agricultural land being cultivated per capita. Therefore, developing a correct and effective state policy in this area is especially important, considering the socio-economic and ethnic-demographic issues of the agricultural sector. The initiators go on to say that agricultural land is a vital space for the country and has no alternative for the development of the agricultural sector; agricultural land is closely linked with the protection of the country's political and economic independence and cultural and historical heritage.

Unconstitutional moratorium of 2014

The Parliament of Georgia introduced a similar moratorium back in June 28, 2013, which was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court on June 24, 2014. This initiative also suspended Article 4.1.b. of the Law on Agricultural Land Ownership, which allows foreigner citizens, legal entities and legal entities registered by foreigners in Georgia to purchase agricultural land.

The reasoning behind this moratorium was also similar to the one proposed in 2017. The initiators stated that Georgia is a country with a small amount of land, with an average of 0.24 hectares of agricultural land being cultivated per capita, which created the necessity to develop a state policy regarding this issue. They stressed the importance of land and lack of alternatives. The main reason for introducing a moratorium was to prevent rich foreign citizens from buying massive amounts of cheap Georgian land.

Decision of the Constitutional Court   

The Constitutional Court of Georgia ruled on June 24, 2014, that “the defendant could not present enough evidence to demonstrate a link between the prohibition of acquisition of agricultural land by foreign citizens and registration of agricultural land or development of a state policy on state-owned land management. The Constitutional Court does not exclude the possibility for the state to set a different rule for specific geographical location or type of land for Georgian or foreign citizens. However, the defendant could not present convincing arguments about the link between the identification of such types of lands and temporary prohibition of land acquisition by foreigners. The Constitutional Court notes that the component of the state policy on agricultural land, which determines what type of land should remain in state ownership and not be alienated, is not linked to the moratorium defined by the disputed norm. Since only the state has the right to alienate land that is owned by the state, it is unclear as to why even a temporary ban land acquisition by foreigners is required.”

Assessment

The amendment adopted by the Parliament on June 16, 2017, is in its essence, purpose and criteria identical to the amendment of June 28, 2013, which was declared unconstitutional. It is unclear, why the Parliament of Georgia has chosen to once again impose a ban and suspend a specific article, when it knowns that the change is unconstitutional. In addition, the purpose of the initiative has not been substantiated and no financial and economic impact assessment has been presented. While special regulations on agricultural land ownership are acceptable, these regulations must not contradict the country’s Constitution and the decision of its Constitutional Court. Using a draft version of the Constitution to justify the adoption of an amendment that contradicts the existing Constitution in unacceptable.

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Eka Beselia, Otar Danelia, Aleksandre Erkvania, Giorgi Volski, Giorgi Gachechiladze, Grigol Liluashvili, Mariam Jashi, Archil Talakvadze, Zaza Gabunia, Kakhaber Okriashvili, Isko Daseni, Teimuraz Kokhreidze, Revaz Arveladze, Giorgi Begadze, Irakli Abuseridze, Davit Chichinadze, Gia Zhorzholiani , Giorgi Kopadze, Simon Nozadze, Guram Macharashvili, Akaki Zoidze, Gela Samkharauli, Zviad Kvachantiradze, Zaza Khutsishvili, Gocha Enukidze, Paata Mkheidze, Irakli (Dachi) Beraia, Shota Khabareli, Beka Natsvlishvili, Sopio Kiladze, Goga Khulordava, Merab Kvaraia, Rati Ionatamishvili, Irakli Sesiashvili, Beka Odisharia, Giorgi Mosidze, Mamuka Mdinaradze, Anri Okhanashvili, Roman Kakulia, Irakli Beraia.

parliament, land