Agricultural reform: Polish fields for the Poles

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Poland, Warsaw – Thursday, April 14, the Polish Parliament voted a bill made by the PiS which makes it more difficult for foreigners to take control of Polish lands.

The PiS keeps doing reforms. After several social and societal reforms, the ruling conservative party is now bringing changes in the field of agriculture. From May the 1st, the state will not sell the land it owns for the next five years, with a few exceptions from these rules, one of them allowing churches and local authorities to buy and sell farmland. Farmers will only be able to sell to other farmers who own not more than 300 hectares of farmland and have been residents of the municipality in which they bought the land for at least five years, ten if they are foreigners. Owners of fields will have to ask the ANR’s (Public agency of the national land control) authorization, which under the control of the Ministry of Agriculture, to lease their plots. Foreigners will still be able to get farming leases, but following restrictive rules. The agricultural exploitation will have to be on their own and not using a company on behalf of a financial investor.

“In may, the transition period of the accession of Poland to the EU will end” said Emmanuelle Mikosz, from the European Landowners Organisation (ELO) to the magazine Le Figaro. “The government is afraid of the arrival of new farmers from neighbor countries and wants to reassure the million of local farmers that is its electoral base.” For now the agreement of the Ministry of the Interior was necessary so that EU citizens can buy Polish lands. Lands in central and eastern Europe are much cheaper than in the West, says the UDDER, and other CEE countries (countries of Central and Eastern Europe) in the European Union have already taken similar measures. In 2015, 243 hectares of fields and 159 hectares of forests fallen into foreign hands. But it was easier to buy as a private company. According to the Ministry of the Interior, 9.700 hectares were bought by foreigners in 2015 on 75.000 sold last year.

The bill still has to be signed by President Duda in order to enter into force. However, the new regulation could also breach EU law. That would lead Warsaw to the European court of Justice if Poland does not amend it, following Brussels instructions.