After voting on amendments for 10 hours straight, Ukraine’s parliament has finally passed a law legalizing the sale of farmland and lifting the country’s 19-year moratorium on land transactions. The law will come into effect on July 1, 2021.

The moratorium’s cancellation brings Ukraine a step closer to receiving a much-needed aid package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

After midnight, during an emergency session of parliament that began on March 30, 259 lawmakers voted in favor of the second reading of the bill, which would permit Ukrainian citizens to buy and sell farmland for cultivation.

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The draft law was passed in its first reading back in November. It was introduced for its second reading on Feb. 6, but spent nearly two months blocked in parliament.

During those two months, lawmakers substantially trimmed the initial proposal to create the final text. They lowered the permitted amount of land that one person or entity can acquire from 200,000 hectares to just 100 hectares. The amount will increase to 10,000 hectares in 2024. 

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In the final text, foreigners and companies based abroad are banned from buying farmland in Ukraine. According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, this ban may be lifted after a nationwide referendum. 

However, such a referendum is unlikely to take place anytime soon, as, according to polls, over 80% of Ukrainians are against selling agricultural land to foreigners.

Lifting the land moratorium was among the primary demands of the IMF to greenlight a $5.5-billion loan program for Ukraine. The other was passing a law outlawing the return of nationalized banks to their former owner. Parliament adopted that law in its first reading earlier in the day.

Legislative struggle

Since February, lawmakers opposed to the land market managed to stall the bill by proposing 4,018 separate amendments. They attempted to discuss and debate each amendment in hopes of stopping the bill from passing.

Nestor Shufrych, a lawmaker from the 44-member Opposition Platform – For Life party, introduced over 50 such amendments. Most of them were identical and proposed a nationwide referendum to settle the issue of lifting the land moratorium.

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In an attempt to block the law, Shufrych staged something akin to a filibuster during the March 30 parliamentary session, speaking at length in Hungarian and reading Facebook posts out loud.

Lawmakers from Opposition Platform – For Life said they will file a motion to the Constitutional Court alleging that less than the required 226 lawmakers were present when most of the amendments were summoned for a vote and, thus, parliament lacked a quorum.

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