240 MPs, mostly from the ruling Servant of the People party, have taken a major step in realizing one of their main reform goals – the establishment of a market for agricultural land in Ukraine. Since 2001, agricultural land sales in Ukraine have been under a moratorium, and while many administrations have tried to remove it, the moratorium’s duration has instead consistently been extended.
That is, until now. With their majority in Parliament, the Servant of the People party have passed the bill on the first reading – against the objections of nearly all opposition MPs, who voted against or abstained fully, as in the case of rockstar-turned-politician Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Golos party.
Passing the bill on the first reading doesn’t mean that it has become law, but that it now goes onto the second reading, where the bill will face another vote, now with changes and amendments. But it does display Servant of the People’s commitment to passing land reform and creating a market for agricultural land.
Most Ukrainians, according to a recent poll, oppose opening up the agricultural land market. But senior government officials, including Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, are adamant that this measure will help ordinary Ukrainians and improve economic growth in the country.
“Land reform is not about selling land. It’s about implementing fairness, about the rights of people to individually decide what to do with their share – sell it, work on it, or just give it for rent,” wrote the prime minister on his Facebook page, adding that this reform is done “in the first place for Ukrainians and in their own interest.”
The bill itself currently sets October 1, 2020, as the date that the agricultural land sale moratorium will be lifted. But buyers will be limited to Ukrainians and Ukrainian-founded companies, according to comments made by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a Facebook video posted to his official page. He also said that the question of whether or not to allow foreign individuals and companies to participate in the market would be decided by an all-Ukrainian referendum.