Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar has said foreigners will be able to purchase 12 times more land than they are currently allowed to once a bill that will allow them to own real estate in Turkey without being subjected to the reciprocity principle takes effect next year.

Three months ago, Minister Bayraktar announced that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government was preparing a draft bill to pave the way for almost unrestricted property sales to foreigners, regardless of whether or not Turkish nationals can purchase property in their respective countries. Speaking to reporters following a Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) event in İstanbul, Bayraktar said the same bill will also allow foreigners to buy up to 30 hectares of land in Turkey. People who do not hold Turkish citizenship can currently buy two-and-a-half hectares of land at most. “The draft will be submitted to Parliament [for a vote] and could be enacted soon. This will probably be at the beginning of 2012,” he said.

Although it is almost certain that the draft bill will be passed in Parliament since the AK Party has a powerful majority of 326 seats in the 550-member assembly, the government’s plan is expected to face sharp criticism from the opposition parties because the sale of property to foreigners is a delicate issue, particularly for the country’s nationalistic circles, whose opinion on such plans is immediately used as political fodder by the opposition parties.

A similar bill was passed in Parliament in 2003 but was partly annulled by the country’s Constitutional Court in 2005 after the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) raised the issue with the high court. It is, however, unlikely that the bill will face as much opposition at the top court as it did six years ago, since the composition of the court and the number of judges has changed, allowing for a more democratic representation in line with constitutional amendments made following a referendum held on Sept. 12 of last year.

Currently, citizens of 89 countries do not have the right to own property in Turkey since Turkish citizens are not entitled to a similar right in those countries. Russia, the Gulf countries and the Turkic states of Central Asia are among them.

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