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Lázár: EC says foreigners can buy state farmland

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MTI/Tamás Kovács

The European Commission has insisted on allowing non-Hungarian citizens who are local farmers to take part in the auctions of state farmland that are starting on Monday, Cabinet Chief János Lázár said at his regular news conference yesterday. 

Cabinet Chief János Lázár at his weekly press conference, yesterday. (Photo: MTI/Tamás Kovács)

The government is planning to put an additional 20,000 hectares of state farmland up for auction, on top of the 380,000 it was already planning to sell, Lázár said, according to a report by news agency MTI.

Lázár said the government had wanted to make sure that the property goes to Hungarians, but complaints by opposition Socialists and far right Jobbik caused the EC to change that plan. The commission formally rejected the complaint filed by the two parties but it indicated during a consultation that it insists foreigners are allowed to buy land, Lázár said.

Lázár said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had ordered a full report with names of the 222 foreign citizens who had asked to participate in the land auctions, online hvg.hu reported yesterday. Lázár said there were likely to be Hungarian names on the list, probably of Hungarian nationals who claim foreign citizenship. He said that, if data protection rules allow it, the list with names and size of land bought would be disclosed, hvg.hu said.

So far HUF 10 bln worth of credit requests have been approved by Budapest Bank in connection with the land purchases, Lázár said, according to MTI. The new land owners will be allowed to regularly review land leases but they are not allowed to set these higher than the market price.

Critics have expressed concern that the farmland privatization scheme would be a hotbed of corruption.

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