EC officially announces assessment of Hungarian land law

EU

European Commission (EC) spokesperson Chantal Hughes today said that the EC is analyzing Hungary's land act to determine if it is in harmony with European Union rules, based on a request from the Austrian agriculture ministry.

If the EC finds the law does not conform to EU norms, “the necessary steps to ensure that the [relevant] measures are amended,” stated Hughes.

Austrian Agriculture Minister Andrä Rupprechter said on Monday that the EC had promised Austria it would assess the land act and that consultations had already taken place with EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier.

Rupprechter’s Hungarian counterpart Sándor Fazekas responded by labeling Rupprechter's talks on the land act in Brussels “another unfriendly step,” alleging that Rupprechter has been “continually insulting Hungarians and continually reporting on us.

“For decades, Hungarian law has been violated and circumvented, a practice which must be stopped,” Fazekas continued. “Mr. Rupprechter is defending the tricksters instead of accepting that Austrian law must be respected in Austria and Hungarian law in Hungary.”

Hungary's Parliament amended the land act in February to prevent Austrian farmers who earlier signed "pocket contracts" – agreements on the sale of certain tracts of borderland farmland when purchase by foreign nationals from EU member states was otherwise still prohibited – from taking legal ownership of the land they purchased.

In a letter sent to MTI, Hughes wrote that restrictions on land sales to people from other EU countries are regarded by the Union as a restriction of free movement of capital: “Nevertheless in certain cases, restrictions to these freedoms can be accepted if they are proportionate, justified and serve the general interest.”

The EC is reviewing whether the restrictions contained in Hungary’s recently-passed new law are justified by policy objectives or for other reasons, according to Hughes, and the question of expropriation of Austrian farmers currently using farmland in Hungary will be considered a separate issue by the Commission.

“Provided that the underlying contracts are valid under national law, depriving land users of the value of their investments without compensation raises concerns with regard to compatibility with EU law,” Hughes wrote in part. This echoes Rupprechter’s longstanding complaint regarding the law, namely that it “strips Austrian farmers of their rights to benefit from Hungarian farmland … [for] which they have paid in advance to recipients.”

-- material from national news service MTI was used in this article

ADVERTISEMENT

Századvég raises GDP forecast to 7.8% Analysis

Századvég raises GDP forecast to 7.8%

Opposition parties to begin PM candidate primaries Elections

Opposition parties to begin PM candidate primaries

New editor-in-chief at Betone Studio Appointments

New editor-in-chief at Betone Studio

Budapest leaders make public transport free for under-14s City

Budapest leaders make public transport free for under-14s

SUPPORT THE BUDAPEST BUSINESS JOURNAL

Producing journalism that is worthy of the name is a costly business. For 27 years, the publishers, editors and reporters of the Budapest Business Journal have striven to bring you business news that works, information that you can trust, that is factual, accurate and presented without fear or favor.
Newspaper organizations across the globe have struggled to find a business model that allows them to continue to excel, without compromising their ability to perform. Most recently, some have experimented with the idea of involving their most important stakeholders, their readers.
We would like to offer that same opportunity to our readers. We would like to invite you to help us deliver the quality business journalism you require. Hit our Support the BBJ button and you can choose the how much and how often you send us your contributions.