Romania lawmakers have approved a bill that would make it much harder for foreigners to buy farmland in Romania.
Lawmakers at the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday voted 205-96 in favor of the bill which outlines strict conditions on how agricultural land can be sold.
The bill which was put forward by the opposition Social Democrats still allows for foreign residents or companies to purchase agricultural land, but it under stricter conditions.
Landowners would have to first offer the land to co-owners, family members, other relatives and Romanian farmers, and only then be free to sell it to foreigners.
Foreigner buyers must have been resident in Romania for five years before the purchase, two years more than current rules. They must also be able to show that 75% of their income comes from agriculture. The bill allows for foreign individuals who are under 40 to have been resident in the country for at least a year.
The opposition Save Romania Union and the governing National Liberal Party said they would challenge the law at the Constitutional Court. President Klaus Iohannis also needs to sign off on the bill.
Liberal lawmaker Vasile Varga claimed the bill was a breach of the EU Accession Treaty, the constitution, and several other laws.
But Social Democrat Doina Pana, a former water and forestry minister, said “After two years of parliamentary debate, we voted to stop the sale of farmland to foreigners. They can buy farm land only after… co-owners, the family, relatives and young Romanian farmers,” have been given the opportunity.
Daily Adevarul said the law was in reaction to more foreign companies moving to buy agricultural land.
The paper said one company with capital from the United Arab Emirates controlled 57,000 hectares of agricultural land, and Lebanese investors had leased more than 21,000 hectares of farmland.