State names price for lost land

People who have illegally seized public land will get a chance to buy it and boost state coffers if a bill unveiled yesterday by the Economy and Finance Ministry is passed into law. In a move that could see the state earn some 700 million euros, the ministry presented a system by which landowners who have acquired public land either by encroachment or through an illegal purchase will be given a period of six months during which they can obtain the legal deeds. The draft law covers an estimated 350,000 hectares of disputed land and the government sees it as the simplest way of settling a complicated issue while gaining some extra income. The bill is aimed at people who have claimed a right to public land since at least the beginning of 1984. But the ministry makes it clear that illegal construction is a completely different matter. «The purchase of public land on which illegal buildings have been constructed in no way legalizes these buildings,» the draft law says. Landowners will have up to six months after the law is passed to buy the disputed plots for their nominal value, which is set by the ministry. If a nominal value has not been set for a particular area, buyers will have to pay 20 percent below the market value for the land.