Brussels threatens some Eastern European countries with sanctions if don’t sell their farm land to foreign buyers

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The European Commission (EC) launched new infringement proceedings against Hungary and several other Eastern European countries because of their restrictive legislation regarding the purchase of arable land by foreigners.

The EC has threatened Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia with serious consequences if they don't change their restrictive rules on the purchase of farm land by foreigners within two months.

If the necessary changes won't be implemented within this time frame the European Commission may take them to the European Court of Justice.

The Commission alleges that after the expiry of the land purchase moratorium in 2014 these countries adopted new laws to protect their farm land from foreign acquisition; however, some of these provisions can be understood as restriction on free movement and cross-border investments.

Some of the restrictions are justifiable, since they have been designed to prevent speculative acquisition of farm land, some others to promote planning and rural development. However, the restrictions may not lead to discrimination against EU citizens the bureaucrats said.

According to the EC, the Hungarian legislation is "especially restrictive"; it completely prohibits the purchase of farm land by foreign citizens. The EC criticizes the Hungarian statutory definition of the term farmer as well, especially the requirement that the farmer must reside in the municipality where the farmland is located.

The European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia in March and April 2015.

These countries have two months to amend the offending legislation and bring them in line with EU rules otherwise, the European Commission bring them to the European Court of Justice.

(MTI –