Hungarian Govt Spox: Strict Laws Prevent Foreigners Buying Farmland

  • 18 Jan 2016 8:00 AM
Hungarian Govt Spox: Strict Laws Prevent Foreigners Buying Farmland
Hungarian laws are very strict in preventing that foreigners should buy Hungarian farmland, government spokesman Zoltán Kovács said. Farmland auctions will continue in February, according to a Thursday announcement by government office chief János Lázár. He said only about a dozen foreigners could buy land under the scheme.

Kovács told public news channel M1 that the second round of auctions will aim at selling off land not sold in the first round, while observing laws that changed since then.

The government’s aim is to keep farmland with farmers who actually cultivate it and live off the land, he said, adding that the government wants to see more and more people make a living out of farming. More than 10,000 farmers have bought farmland during the auctions, which is “a real success”, Kovács said.

The proportion of foreigners among them is minimal, and most of them are dual citizens or people who had lived in Hungary for a long time and “can safely be considered Hungarians”, he said, adding that they are part of the local community and not investors.

Lázár said on Thursday that the next round of auctions would last until the end of March with prices and legal conditions unchanged. The government has auctioned off 61% of the 197,000 hectares put up for sale as of the end of December, generating revenue of 171 billion forints (EUR 541.2m). Revenue from plots smaller than three hectares came to 6.1 billion forints, he said.

The Hungarian Development Bank (MFB) is offering preferential credit to local farmers purchasing land. The MFB has so far provided 120 billion forints of credit for the purchases, but more is available, Lázár said.

The opposition Socialists said the new farmland auctions will only mean success for “Fidesz chiefs and businesses close to [Prime Minister Viktor] Orbán and their families”, but cause damage to the country. Zoltán Gőgös, deputy leader of the party, said the Socialists want to take the law to the Constitutional Court and ask for it to be axed retroactively.

He also said if in government, the Socialists would review “every single contract in the scandalous farmland purchase scheme” and fraudsters should expect punishment.

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