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Farmers protest against the changes in the Law on Agricultural Land, Serbia


Agriculture is one of the main economic branches in the Republic of Serbia. The vast areas of arable agricultural land in the country are still state-owned. This land is leased out to natural or legal persons, with profit in agriculture depend on the area of cultivated land and not on the amount of invested working capital.

At the beginning of 2015, the government suggested the amendments to the Law on Agricultural Land in order to ease a new foreign investment in agriculture. The most important amendments are: 1. Introduction of the right of first refusal to lease- persons with an “investment plan” will have priority over other interested parties in leasing up to 30% of the total area of state-owned land in each municipality for a period of up to 30 years (previously lease period did not exceed 3 years and leased area was restricted to 100 ha); and 2. Restriction of the right of lease for persons who own land.

Such proposals provoked the protests by the farmers from the Serbian Norther province Vojvodina and several opposition political parties. They were worried by the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture will evaluate “investment plan” (only vaguely defined in the law) giving them unchecked powers to favour big investors closely cooperating with the Serbian authorities over persons who have already invested in agriculture. The state authority concerted foreign investments are needed given that not all state-owned arable land is currently in use.

Despite the protests in front of the Parliament in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, the amendments to the Law on Agricultural Land came into force in December 2015. In addition, in accordance with the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), Serbia has the obligation to allow the transfer of agricultural land to EU nationals by 1st of September 2017 by further adjusting the Law on Agricultural Land. The law currently states that a foreign natural or legal person cannot own agricultural land in Serbia, yet foreigners can own agricultural land indirectly through locally registered companies. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Farmers protest against the changes in the Law on Agricultural Land, Serbia

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

According to the Minister of Agriculture, Serbia has 830.000 ha state-owned agricultural land, 30% of which is leased, while 570.000 ha is still unused.

Lease of 260.000 ha brought profit of 51 million EUR in 2014/2015.

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:15,000-20,000 families
Start of the conflict:01/01/2015
End of the conflict:29/12/2015
Relevant government actors:Government of Republic of Serbia, Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Farmers’ organisations from Vojvodina, Nezavisna asocijacija poljoprivrednika Srbije (NAPS); Political parties: League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV), Democratic Party (DS), Social Democratic Party (SDS), Movement “Enough is enough” ("Dosta je bilo"); Agricultural experts and scientists.

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:The New Law on Agricultural land was adopted
Proposal and development of alternatives:Farmers’ organisations and opposition political parties asked for the withdrawal of the new legislation which they consider unfair to small farmers and creating the conditions for corruption. The protestors demanded a constructive dialogue about the law with decision-makers.
Minister of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Snezana Bogosavljevic Boskovic claimed necessary to bring big investors given that 70% of the state-owned arable land is unused. The protesters claimed the unused areas of land are of low quality for agriculture.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite protests, the New Law on Agricultural land was adopted in December 2015. Further changes in favour of foreign investors are to occur in 2017 due to Serbia’s obligations under the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Law on Agricultural Land

Amendments to the Law on Agricultural Land

Danas protest Nezavisne asocijacije poljoprivrednika

NA TRAKTORIMA U BEOGRAD: Protest Nezavisne asocijacije poljoprivrednika Srbije

Paori odustali od dolaska u Beograd, protest se nastavlja

ŠTA DONOSE IZMENE Usvojen Zakon o poljoprivrednom zemljištu

Šta nam donose izmene i dopune Zakona o poljoprivrednom zemljištu

Prošao pogubni Zakon o poljoprivrednom zemljištu: Blago u bescenje

PROTEST POLJOPRIVREDNIKA Pajtić: Ometaćemo primenu zakona, a kada dođemo na vlast raskidamo ugovore

Liberalization of Agricultural Land Transfer in Serbia by September 2017

Changes to the Agricultural Land Act

Sale of agricultural land to foreigners still uncertain

Serbian Farmers Say Land Law ‘Encourages Corruption

Sale Of Serbian Agricultural Land To Foreigners: What Does The Agreement With The EU Really Say?

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Održan protest poljoprivrednika ispred Doma Narodne skupštine Srbije

Other comments:The neighbouring ex-Yugoslav republics had to accept the similar obligations, however these range from exclusion of the application of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) to the acquisition of agricultural land in Croatia to Montenegro's outright giving of the national treatment to EU nationals
Article 63 of the SAA regulates not only sale of Serbian agricultural land to EU nationals, but to the acquisition of real estate in general: "As from the entry into force of this Agreement, Serbia shall authorise, by making full and expedient use of its existing procedures, the acquisition of real estate in Serbia by nationals of Member States of the European Union. Within four years from the entry into force of this Agreement, Serbia shall progressively adjust its legislation concerning the acquisition of real estate in its territory by nationals of the Member States of the European Union to ensure the same treatment as compared to its own nationals."

Meta information

Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, vankajo(at), Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2555



Farmers protest in front of the Parliament in Belgrade

The sign reads "Defend our land"