Right-wing groups protest the sale of land to foreigners
What does the ultra-right fear, and what is written in the new constitution which has set out the procedure for citizens of other countries to acquire land in Georgia?
The demonstration participants are protesting against a decision made by the Constitutional Court of Georgia in which the moratorium on the sale of agricultural land to foreigners has been abolished.
On 10 December, protesters set up camp in front of the House of Justice in Tbilisi and prevented foreigners from entering the building.
In addition to Georgian March, members of the Georgian parliament and leaders of the political party Alliance of Patriots, Ada Marshania and Emzar Kvitsiani, were also in front of the House of Justice.
What is the group protesting?
Greek citizens Prokopy Savvidi and Diana Shamanidi filed a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court of Georgia after they were unable to register a plot of land they inherited in Georgia since there was a moratorium on the registration of agricultural land for foreigners.
They demanded that the restriction, contrary to Article 21 of the still valid constitution, be abolished.
Article 21 of the current constitution reads as follows: “The right to inheritance and property is recognised and untouchable. The abolition of the universal right to property, its purchase, sale or inheritance is unacceptable.”
On 7 December, the Constitutional Court granted their claim and declared the moratorium invalid.
However, this restriction will only be lifted until 16 December.
On 16 December the inauguration of the newly elected President of Georgia will take place. After the inauguration, a new constitution will enter into force, which, unlike the previous one, prohibits the transfer of agricultural land to foreigners.
The second round of the presidential elections in Georgia took place on 28 November. The fifth president of Georgia will be government supported candidate Salome Zourabichvili.
Ultranationalists will be standing in front of the House of Justice until 16 December in protest. After that, their task will be fulfilled by a new constitution.
Thus, foreigners who want to register land in Georgia are unable to use the five working days they had to legally do so.
Protester and leader of the nationalist political movement Kartuli Dasi, Jondi Bagaturia, says that corrupt authorities entered into an agreement with the Constitutional Court. “…2,500 applications have already been prepared so that foreigners can buy Georgian land during these five days,” said Baghaturia in an interview with the public broadcaster.
What is written in the new constitution?
After President-elect Salome Zourabichvili takes the oath, a new constitution will enter into force.
The new constitution has the following new entry:
“Agricultural land, as a resource of particular importance, can be owned only by the state, a self-governing unit, a citizen of Georgia or an association of Georgian citizens,” and exceptions must be determined by the law.
Moreover, foreign citizens will not receive the right to register land even if they marry Georgian citizens.
Only foreigners who inherit land in Georgia will receive the right to register land.
As for legal entities, they will have the right to acquire land only if there is a citizen of Georgia or a group of citizens among the owners of the company.
Arguments for and against
The constitutional ban on the sale of agricultural land to foreigners has both supporters and opponents.
The main argument of the proponents of the ban is that without strict regulations, cheap Georgian land will easily end up in the hands of wealthy foreigners.
A common argument is that if foreigners buy Georgian land en masse, Georgians will be in the minority in Georgia.
Those who oppose the ban say that restricting the sale of land to foreigners will cause the volume of investments in the country to decrease. Furthermore, the country is depriving itself of qualified investors and the flow of knowledge, experience and modern technology into the country, as well as hampering the development of agriculture.
“In addition, if the country does not allow rich buyers [to buy land], the value of land on the market will fall, which will harm rural residents,” say opposers.