The FINANCIAL — The group of several ultra-nationalist organizations and individual activists united under the “March of the Georgians” picketed the Public Service Hall on December 10 to block any foreigners from registering land purchase, and in protest against the ruling of the Constitutional Court, which temporarily lifted the ban on agricultural land sales to foreign citizens.
The protesters, who were rallying outside the Public Service Hall, blocked its entrance for a certain period of time, obstructing the customers from entering the building.
MP Ada Marshania of the opposition Alliance of Patriots party, who also participated in the rally, said that “by its ruling, the Constitutional Court has stabbed Georgian nation and our state in the back.”
Former MP Dimitri Lortkipanidze, one of the leaders of the Agreement of National Forces, said that the Constitutional Court ruling “contradicts Georgia’s interests, the content of the ban, which had been initiated by Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani.” He urged the Justice Minister to issue a special act on suspending “technical regulations” on land registration to foreign nationals.
The protesters said that their rallies would become permanent nature, calling on citizens to join their rally at the Public Service Hall on December 11.
Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani convened a special news briefing to respond to the protesters’ demands. She called on the public for calmness, noting that an agricultural land has not been registered to the name of any foreign national on the day of the protest, saying there was “no need for knocking down the open door”.
What is the protest about?
On December 7, the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional the provision of the law, envisaging temporary ban on agricultural land sales to foreign nationals. The ruling would only hold until December 16, when the new Constitution, containing a similar ban, and thus undercutting the Court ruling will enter into force. The protest is thus aimed at physically preventing any foreign citizen from registering land purchase during that narrow legal window.
Drive to ban land sales
The nationalist groupings have long rallied against the sale (as opposed to lease) of the agricultural land to foreigners, fanning the fears foreigners depopulating the Georgian villages and of depriving Georgia of its national treasure.
These claims have support from the ruling party, which has passed the moratorium on selling agricultural lands to foreign nationals in late June 2013, till the end of 2014, ostensibly pending clarification of the sales procedures.
The ruling was challenged as unconstitutional in September 2013 and in June 2014, the Constitutional Court of Georgia has ruled it unconstitutional and abolished it.
In June 2017, the Cabinet and the Parliamentary majority have introduced a provision in the draft constitution, prohibiting agricultural land sales to foreign citizens, citing “strategic interests of Georgian citizens and the country.”
The new constitution will enter into force upon the President’s inauguration on December 16 and the sale of agricultural lands to foreign nationals will thus be banned at a Constitutional level.