Land reform in times of corruption and war: why National Corps protests against lifting up the moratorium on agricultural land’s sale by Zelensky’s government
A note of elucidation for my foreign friends. While on the quarantine, on behalf of the Intermarium Support Group, I recorded a series of analytical materials for the Ukrainian audience about the dangers of the land reform as suggested by the authorities. The latter seized an opportunity to launch the market of agricultural land in Ukraine as a means to reignite our destabilized economy due to the revolution, annexation of Crimea by Russia and the war in occupied parts of Donbas, which is still going on.
National Corps has been rallying against their ridiculous version of the land reform since autumn, but both the party of current president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky (“Servant of the People”) and the party of his rival, former president Petro Poroshenko (“European Solidarity”) took advantage of the nationalists’ lockdown and lifted the moratorium on agricultural land’s sale on March 31. Multiple amendments made by other parties will delay its implementation but it is already clear that the authorities have no clue about the land reform and, what is worse, corruption will ruin even the most careful and efficient version.
Needless to say, it was the request of the World Bank and one of the terms under which the International Monetary Fund was ready to give Ukraine the next loan. The World Bank appeals to the fact that Ukraine possesses one-third of the world’s black soil but its crop yields are half of the European average, so the well-thought land reform would make us an instantly flourishing country.
Also, needless to say, there are many Ukrainian citizens living in the abstract black and white world where “privatization,” “open market,” “neoliberalism,” “free trade,” etc. stand for “civilization,” “progress,” “future,” “the West,” etc., whereas state interventionism and regulation of the land market, limitations on the sale of agricultural land to the foreigners and state ownership / control over the land are associated with the Soviet Union, China, Russia, communism and so on and so forth. None of them heard about the level of state interventionism in France, the biggest agricultural producer of the EU.
That is why I had to explain to them what was really going on in Eastern and Central Europe after privatization, and these countries at least had the direct payment system for the farmers within the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU (another yet not unrelated question is that land monopolists were the biggest beneficiaries of the latter). However, not only Latvia or Hungary introduced limitations for the foreigners and legal entities, which was followed by infringement cases opened by the European Commission. United States, Canada (especially certain provinces), Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and other countries reconsider their agricultural policies precisely due to the problems brought by the open land market, and the Chinese capital is mentioned in the reports of the respective ministries and committees increasingly often. In short, the biggest problem is that speculative foreign investments into agricultural land (that is, aimed at profiteering from the constant rise of land prices) make it unavailable for local aging farmers and cause their displacement from the countryside.
Moreover, under conditions of the ongoing war conflict, it is obvious that the enemy can legally acquire Ukrainian land nearby the locations of strategic importance using fake daughter companies (for instance, the mainland corridor to Russia-controlled Transnistria in Moldova from Russian Rostov through Ukrainian Mariupol, which was prevented by the Azov Regiment by military means, and at the cost of many lives). This is one of the main reasons why, for example, Israel only leases its agricultural land (another one is that the land is preserved for the Jewish repatriates).
Yet it seems that the “greens” in the European Parliament are more worried about this possibility than certain Ukrainians. Although they mistakenly call the conflict with Russia “a civil war,” they fairly draw attention to the fact that such rich soil might not be in our (meaning both European and Ukrainian) possession eternally (this Russia-sponsored war has only elements of the civil war, and the fact that all post-WW1 “wars of liberation for peace in all of the world” are civil by definition is another subject of discussion more suitable for my thesis). By the way, in spite of all their harsh ecological measures which often raise farmers’ protests, they openly advocate for the limitation of some neoliberal values in favor of local traditions and democratic decision-making, almost after Carl Schmitt who contraposed liberalism and democracy:
“The European Economic and Social Committee therefore proposes to fundamentally reassess the question whether the free movement of capital can in fact remain untouched when it relates to fertile land.”*
The Greens were alarmed by the fact that the shares of the biggest German agricultural company, KTG “Agrar,” were acquired by the Chinese conglomerate FOSUN. Similar concerns were expressed in the US after its biggest in the world pork processor, Smithfield Foods, was bought by China and started exporting meat to China in order to support its pork industry devastated by swine fever.
In other words, all over the world, there are no “agricultural bills” on their own; in the EU, the Common Agricultural Policy is adopted for 6 years and is a part of the general food policy and ecological security. In Ukraine, the land reform is also an important issue to be considered from a point of view of defense (military security), which means that our government will have hard time attempting to implement their version of the land reform…
* Landrush – the sellout of Europe’s farmland | Greens/European Free Alliance (the German Greens have 21 MEPs in the European parliament, that is, almost a third of this EFA group, which won 69 seats in the 2109 European elections). A study commissioned by Green MEP Maria Heubuch: https://www.greens-efa.eu/files/assets/docs/land_rush_-_the_sellout_of_europe___s_farmland.pdf
Videos in Ukrainian may be found on YouTube channel of the Intermarium Support Group: