7 June 2002

Two more in the pipeline…

ROMANIA and Bulgaria are also on the list of countries waiting to join the EU, though negotiations are a step behind and it will be several more years before they achieve full membership.

Despite this, Romania, in particular, has become an increasingly popular destination for UK investors in recent years, with a number of farmers and agricultural companies setting up in business.

But many investments by foreign farmers have failed because they did not pay sufficient attention to the legal issues of farming in a country other than their own, warns Oana Taylor, a lawyer based in Bucharest.

"Oral contracts are not binding and thus ownership titles, contracts, security issues, employment and leasing law are unusually important," she says.

"Those investors that have made a success of Romanian farming are those that have spent the time, from the outset, working alongside a lawyer, who can help them navigate their way through the commercial and bureaucratic issues."

Mrs Taylor also urges would-be investors to make full use of the commercial section at the embassy.

Bulgaria, too, has much to offer, according to Sofia-based consultant, Frank Quin. "Under the Bulgarian constitution there is a prohibition on foreigners buying farmland," he says. "But it is permissible for a Bulgarian company to be established with up to 100% foreign ownership and such a company is then free to buy land.

"Also, the present government intends to organise a public debate on this foreign ownership clause with a view to bringing about its removal."

With the land market in limbo, but with large parcels of quality farmland potentially for sale to those with the determination to find it and secure it, Mr Quin believes now is the time to make a move.