Law no. 175/2020 amending Law no. 17/2014 on certain measures regarding the sale and purchase of agricultural land outside of built-up areas and amending Law no. 268/2001 regarding the privatization of companies managing the state’s publicly and privately owned agricultural land and for the establishment of the State Property Agency (hereinafter referred to as ‘Law no. 175/2020’) was published in the Official Gazette on 14 August 2020, after a long delay and debates on its constitutionality, and entered into force on 13 October 2020.
The changes brought by Law no. 175/2020 are part of a larger European context, similar provisions have been introduced in a significant number of countries across the EU. The official purpose of the governments involved was the protection of local farmers and development of national agricultural activity. Nevertheless, despite the good intentions, similar legislation adopted in other countries have been censured by the European Court of Justice, the European Commission, and the European Court for Human Rights as they decided that the enacted regulations breached several fundamental rights established by EU treaties and regulations.
Law 175/2020 stipulates that its provisions apply to any sale-purchase of agricultural land located outside a built-up area, irrespective of whether the process was ongoing on the date when the law came into force or was initiated afterwards. Thus, its entering into force correlated with the absence of implementation norms, brought a great deal of unclarity on the market and practically any ongoing transaction regarding sale-purchase of agricultural land outside of built-up areas was blocked.
In order to resolve (at least temporarily) the situation, the Romanian Government enacted Emergency Ordinance No. 203/2020 on some measures aimed at regulating the sale-purchase of agricultural land situated outside built-up areas, which came into effect on 25 November 2020.
Emergency Ordinance No. 203/2020 provided the rules that derogate from Law 175/2020, applicable to the sale-purchase of agricultural land situated outside built-up areas based on requests for the display of sale offers filed on or prior to 13 October 2020. However, its provisions were applicable only until 31 January 2021. Thus, the sale-purchase process of agricultural land situated outside of built-up areas for which requests for the display of sale offers had been filed on or prior to 13 October 2020 had to be finalized by 31 January 2021 at the latest, the sanction for not meeting the above-mentioned deadline being the fact that the sellers need to reinitiate the sale-purchase process regarding agricultural land in accordance with the new requirements set forth by Law 175/2020.
On 8 February, the relevant Ministries involved in this process passed the implementation norms to Law no. 175/2020, thus creating the legal framework for continuing the transactions regarding the sale-purchase process of agricultural land situated outside of built-up areas.
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