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Official: Hungary stands by land law

EU

Hungary will defend its land law even if it has to go to court, Attila István Simon a state secretary of the farm ministry said yesterday, commenting on the European Union having launched two infringement procedures in connection with the Hungarian law, Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

The secretary added that the Hungarian government maintains that the law, which came into effect on May 1, 2014, protects the interests of local farmers against those of speculators by limiting the availability of land for foreign purchase thereby enabling Hungarian farms a chance to grow.

The first procedure was launched at Austriaʼs initiative, due to Hungaryʼs revision of land-use rights, while the second procedure launched by the European Commission concerns the legislation as a whole, MTI said. Austria has objected to the law which it says strips Austrian farmers of their rights to benefit from Hungarian farmland.

Both cases could be brought before the European Court of Justice, the state secretary noted. Last year, Hungaryʼs farm minister referred to Austriaʼs decision to approach Brussels as an "unfriendly step".

Brussels regards restrictions on land sales to people from other EU countries as a restriction of free movement of capital, one of the fundamental freedoms of the EU single market, although it has also said that in certain cases restrictions to these freedoms can be accepted if they are "proportionate, justified and serve the general interest", MTI added.

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