Author: Svilena Velcheva
Published On: 29/05/2020

Half of the municipalities in the Northeast Planning Region lease agricultural land from their municipal land fund without tender and competition. However, none of them helps socially disadvantaged residents of the municipality through them. This was established by a study of the Public Environmental Center for Sustainable Development. The study aimed to establish the existence of local policies for the use of mainly arable land, as part of the social policy of municipalities.

22 or a little over 62% of the municipalities in the districts of Varna, Dobrich, Targovishte and Shumen are covered. 14 of the municipalities categorically state that they do not implement policies and schemes to support low-income and socially disadvantaged residents by providing agricultural land, and another 8 refuse to respond. One of the reasons for the lack of such policies is stated: “because it is not reflected in the ordinance for acquisition, management and disposal of municipal property”, which is adopted by the municipal councils themselves.

The search for new opportunities for social support of vulnerable groups of the population at the local level is especially relevant in the context of the global pandemic of COVID-19, commented Ilian Iliev from the PECSD. The lack of sufficient financial opportunities for support at the national level raises the issue of support at the local level, using the potential of all material resources, including the lands from the municipal land fund.

In the conditions of global economic crisis, the importance of delegated rule-making at the local level and local self-government for overcoming the economic consequences is increasing, according to lawyer Alexander Assenov. According to him, the use of municipal agricultural land to support the socially disadvantaged not only does not contradict the financial interests of the municipality, but will also help optimize the financial and social package of measures to support vulnerable groups.

The proposal of environmentalists to local authorities is to use the unfavorable economic situation to reduce the percentage of vacant land in municipalities and at the same time to stimulate agricultural production to meet their own household needs. They are ready to provide consultations to the municipal authorities in this direction.

The study was implemented under the project “Advocacy campaign for active use of municipal agricultural land”, funded by the Green Grants Fund with the support of the environmental association “Friends of the Earth”.

Translator: Valentina Vagge