Ukraine intends to deprive churches of the right to permanent land use

Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Photo: wikipedia / Vadim Chuprina

The Servants’ bill proposes to force religious organizations to switch from free use of land plots to paid lease on a commercial basis.

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine registered bill No. 5385 "On Amendments to the Land Code of Ukraine and Other Legislative Acts on the Abolition of the Institution of the Right to Permanent Use of Land Plots." This legislative initiative directly concerns religious organizations, according to the Institute of Religious Freedom (IRF).

The new bill was prepared by 18 members of the Servant of the People faction, 14 of whom are members of the Committee on Agrarian and Land Policy, including the head of the Committee.

The main goal is to increase the revenues of local budgets from rent for state and communal land plots. To this end, the authors of the bill propose to completely abolish the right to permanent land use (Art. 92 of the Land Code), on the basis of which religious organizations have the opportunity to use land plots free of charge for their spiritual and social activities.

According to experts, this draft law does not contain amendments to Article 82 of the Land Code, which would allow religious organizations to acquire land ownership; therefore they are not given the opportunity to buy out plots of state and communal property that they use now.

Thus, the MPs want to force religious organizations to switch from free permanent land use to paid rent on a commercial basis, experts emphasize. At the same time, in order to obtain new land plots for lease, religious organizations will need to participate in land tenders, which implies a significant increase in the price of rent and will make it impossible for many religious organizations to use land.

The development of a bill on the abolition of the institution of the right to permanent use of land plots is provided for by Task 193 of the Government's Priority Action Plan for 2021, approved by the order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (No. 276 of March 24, 2021), which, according to the Cabinet, will allow to increase land use revenues."

The IRF recalled that the right to permanent land use for religious organizations was restored in 2009 at the initiative of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO). Thanks to this right, religious organizations can use state and communal land free of charge only for non-commercial purposes. Such a land use regime was introduced as compensation for more than 70 years of repression and church property expropriated in favor of the state.

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