TBILISI, DFWatch–Foreigners will be again able to purchase agricultural lands in Georgia unhindered.
This follows from a decision by Georgia’s Constitutional Commission which means that the Constitutional Court abolishes the moratorium on foreign citizens purchasing agricultural lands in Georgia.
Selling agricultural lands to foreigners is a problematic issue among Georgians, even though they aren’t able to use the land effectively for various reasons, and the debate has flared up periodically.
The government coalition promised people in the 2012 election campaign that they would stop the selling of agricultural land and last year they solved the issue by announcing a moratorium on selling of such lands to foreign citizens.
Amendments were adopted for the law on agricultural lands last year, which suspended passage of the law allowing the sale of agricultural land to foreigners and legal persons registered abroad until December 31, 2014. The government should then organize a common system for lands cadaster and land management.
Later the government took the initiative for another amendment to the same law and allowed a certain exception about selling agricultural lands: It allowed commercial banks to purchase land before December 31, 2014. A passage was added to the law which said that the restriction about selling lands to foreigners won’t apply to ‘special cases’ by the decision of the government.
Mathias Huter, a citizen of Austria who formerly worked at Transparency International Georgia, took the issue to court and was backed by his former employer, demanding to abolish the amendments.
Giorgi Sulkhanishvili, an advisor at the Constitutional Court, explained on Tuesday that on June 26, 2012, the Constitutional Court made a ruling in a case brought by a Danish citizen against the parliament, which in effect abolished the prohibition on foreigners becoming owners of agricultural land.
After announcing the moratorium, there was another lawsuit against parliament similar to the previous case. According to Sulkhanishvili, the court considered that the disputed regulation had the same content as in 2012, which was recognized as unconstitutional.
He explained that if the court has to revise a regulation which was once recognized as unconstitutional, it has a right to abolish the regulation without reviewing it again.
The court’s decision says that both regulations, the old one and the new one, prohibited foreigners from purchasing and disposing agricultural lands. Even though the regulation was temporary, the Constitution Court decided to abolish it and recognize it as unconstitutional.