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Selling land to foreigners: Wąsik versus Kosiniak-Kamysz. Who’s right?

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Deputy Minister Maciej Wąsik from PiS accused PSL president Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz of falsehood in providing data on the amount of land sold to foreigners during the rule of the United Right. This is another installment in the dispute between PiS and PSL over the “land sale to foreigners”: PiS claims to protect Polish land; PSL – that PiS is selling it.

On April 13, two days before the PiS convention “For the Polish countryside” in the village of Łyse in Mazovia, three members of the Polish People’s Party presented data on the sale of land to foreigners at a press conference in the Sejm. “The PiS government is very good at selling Polish land to foreigners,” said Krzysztof Paszyk. Jarosław Rzepa, referring to the report published by the Ministry of the Interior and Administration (MSWiA), informed that since the beginning of the PiS government in 2015, the sale of forest and agricultural land to foreigners has been increasing year by year. “The latest report shows that for 2022 it is 5,119 hectares,” the politician pointed out. He reminded that “when the PO-PSL government ended its functioning in 2015, 412 hectares of agricultural and forest land were sold to foreigners in Poland.”

Not the first quarrel over the sale of land

“Scandal!” – PSL president Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz commented on Twitter and provided the data of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration on the sale of land to foreigners since 2015, the same that the politicians of his party talked about. The deputy head of the Ministry, Maciej Wąsik, referred to this entry. “You are false. It was PSL that negotiated the accession treaty, which in 2016 freed agricultural land trade for EU citizens. Only the PiS government introduced provisions giving pre-emptive rights to Polish farmers. The Ministry of Interior and Administration gave permission for the purchase of only 30 hectares of land by foreigners from outside the EU #stopfake ” – wrote Deputy Minister Wąsik.

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Maciej Wąsik’s polemic with Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz on the sale of land to foreigners.Twitter.com

This is not the first time that the PSL has pointed out the hypocrisy of the ruling party in its declarations about protecting Polish land against redemption. So it was, for example in August 2019when the head of the Forum of Young Peasants, Miłosz Motyka, suggested on a social networking site that during the rule of PiS most agricultural and forest land was sold to foreigners or in April 2021, after the adoption of the act on another 5-year ban on the sale of state land. On the other hand On December 11, 2022, during the Assembly of the Polish Countryside, PiS president Jarosław Kaczyński included the “protection of ownership of Polish land” among his party’s successes in agricultural policy. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture, Henryk Kowalczyk, responded to the allegations in PSL social media about the sale of land in the PiS era. He claimed that the sale of land to foreigners with a permit amounts to slightly more than 20 hectares per year. We have described it in Konkret24.

Deputy Prime Minister Henryk Kowalczyk on the sale of land to foreigners

Deputy Minister Wąsik argues similarly, but there are several manipulations in his entry.

However, not false, only the data of the Ministry of Interior and Administration

Addressing the president of PSL, Maciej Wąsik wrote: “You are a fake.” It can be understood that he accuses Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz of providing false data on the sale of land to foreigners. These, however, are true, they come from the annual reports of the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration on the implementation of the Act of March 24, 1920 on the purchase of real estate by foreigners. The latest report for 2022 was delivered to MPs on April 12.

The documents of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration show that the sale of agricultural and forest land to foreigners during the PiS government significantly exceeds the levels from the PO-PSL government. In 2016, it was sold to foreigners 576 ha agricultural and forest land, in 2022 – already 5120 ha (exactly 5119.87 ha). During the rule of the United Right, there was an almost tenfold increase in the sale of agricultural and forest land to foreigners, which contradicts the assurances of PiS politicians that Polish land does not end up in foreign hands.

Land sold to foreigners in Poland MIA

The longest transition period

Maciej Wąsik writes further that “It was PSL who negotiated the accession treaty, which in 2016 freed trade in agricultural land for EU citizens.” His statement can be interpreted as saying that the main goal of the PSL in the negotiations was “to free land trade”. Instead, it was the other way around.

When joining the European Union in 2004, Poland committed itself to comply with Community law, including European treaties, which stipulate, inter alia, that “all restrictions on the movement of capital between Member States are prohibited” (Article 63 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, TFEU). This results in the freedom to purchase real estate, shares and stocks in any EU country. The EU treaties allow for periodic exceptions to these rules, which are called transitional periods. During the accession negotiations in 2002 (during the SLD-PSL government), Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kalinowski from the PSL was granted a 12-year transitional period – that is, for 12 years from Poland’s accession to the EU, citizens of other Member States were not free to buy land in Poland, they had to have a permit to do so. It was longest transition period in this respect among the countries joining the EU at that time. Other countries in the region, such as the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia and Hungary, have been granted 7-year transitional periods.

There was supposed to be a pre-emptive right, restrictions came into force

Maciej Wąsik in his entry praises his own government for introducing provisions on pre-emption of land by Polish farmers. This is likely a reference to Act of 14 April 2016 on suspending the sale of real estate of the Agricultural Property Stock of the State Treasury and amending certain acts.

However, the pre-emption right was already written down several years earlier – in the Act of April 11, 2003 on shaping the agricultural system, i.e. adopted during the rule of Leszek Miller from the SLD (PSL left the coalition and the government a month earlier). It states that “the right of pre-emption is vested by law” in the lessee of agricultural real estate, or “a person close to the seller within the meaning of the provisions on real estate management” (i.e. spouses, parents, children). If there was no person entitled to pre-emption, the Agricultural Property Agency had priority in the purchase of land.

The Act of 2016 repeated these provisions (the Agricultural Property Agency was replaced by a new institution – the National Support Center for Agriculture). Its purpose was to secure agricultural land against possible speculative buyout by foreigners in connection with the end of the protection period for the purchase of Polish land, which expired on April 30, 2016. But this act introduced several restrictions on the acquisition of agricultural property: the total area of ​​agricultural land together with the newly purchased land could not exceed 300 ha; for five years the farmer had to live in the commune where he bought the property, and for ten years he could not resell the purchased land without the consent of the court. The same act contained a five-year ban on the sale of state-owned agricultural land from the Agricultural Property Stock of the State Treasury above two hectares, which was extended for another five years the act passed on March 17, 2021.

As a result of these changes, what the opposition MPs warned against happened – the position of Polish farmers was weakened. “There will be much fewer buyers and the turnover will be significantly reduced,” warned PO MP Marcin Święcicki on March 11, 2016, during the discussion on the draft of the new law. “Farmers will find it difficult to expand their farms with land that is currently privately owned,” announced PSL MP Mirosław Maliszewski.

According to the data of the Central Statistical Office, after the introduction of new regulations (entered into force on April 30, 2016), the turnover of agricultural real estate in 2017 decreased significantly. As reported by the Central Statistical Office, the number of notarial deeds for the sale of agricultural real estate decreased by 17.6% compared to 2016. At the same time, the average price of one hectare of arable land in private trading increased by 12 percent.

Three years later, the PiS government admitted defeat. And since it was an election year, on March 14, 2019, he sent another amendment to the act on shaping the agricultural system to the Sejm, in which he eased the 2016 restrictions on agricultural real estate, including by shortening from ten to five years the period during which the purchaser of agricultural real estate must run a farm which included the purchased real estate, consents to the purchase of real estate are to be issued instead of a court by the director of the KOWR, and bans on the sale of real estate purchased from the State Treasury’s Agricultural Property Stock by among others tenants of houses, apartments and outbuildings.

“It should be assessed that the above solutions will have a positive impact on agricultural real estate trading, as the number of entities entitled to purchase agricultural land will increase,” said PiS MP Jerzy Małecki, presenting the draft act, which was passed on April 26, 2019.

Only 30 hectares, but for a different category of foreigners

To show how the PiS government protects Polish land from foreigners, PiS politicians present data on how much agricultural land foreigners bought in Poland with the consent of the authorities. Maciej Wąsik wrote: “The Ministry of Interior and Administration gave permission for the purchase of only 30 hectares of land by foreigners from outside the EU.” In the times of the PiS government, consents to purchase really concerned small areas. And so, in recent years, foreigners have bought:

80 ha land in 2016 (incl 65 ha agricultural and forest land);
23 ha in 2017 (incl 5 ha agricultural and forest land);
25 ha in 2018 (incl 14 ha agricultural and forest land);
54 ha in 2019 (incl 35 ha agricultural and forest land);
45 ha in 2020 (incl 22 ha agricultural and forest land);
46 ha in 2021 (incl 20 ha agricultural and forest land);
55 ha in 2022 (incl 30 ha agricultural and forest land).

Only that in 2016 the category of foreigners was changed, who had to obtain permission to buy real estate from the relevant institutions of the Polish state. This is related to the end of the 12-year transitional period for limiting the sale of land to foreigners on April 30, 2016 (as described above). From that moment, foreigners from the European Economic Area and the Swiss Confederation (i.e. citizens of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) do not need a permit from the Minister of the Interior and Administration to purchase any real estate in Poland, regardless of its location and area. The Ministry of the Interior and Administration only keeps a register of real estate sales transactions to foreigners. Foreigners from outside these countries still have to apply for such permits.

For this reason, bragging about consents for the sale of a small amount of land to foreigners is unjustified, because the currently issued consents concern a completely different category of buyers than before 2016.

Main photo source: Marcin Obara, Marian Zubrzycki/PAP

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