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BUSINESS FOCUS &LTBR>IN SLOVAKIA SOME RECORDS OF PROPERTY OWNERSHIP ARE A CENTURY OUT OF DATE

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SLOVAKIA has taken the obligation to make its land market transparent and fully functional by the end of 2005. To succeed, the country needs to update its information on original landowners and record all the changes that have taken place over the past half-century.

SLOVAKIA has taken the obligation to make its land market transparent and fully functional by the end of 2005. To succeed, the country needs to update its information on original landowners and record all the changes that have taken place over the past half-century.

However, experts are concerned that missing data and a lack of finances, along with legislation loopholes and the disinterest of citizens, has been decelerating the process.

The financially underfed National Office for Cadastre, Geodesy, and Cartography (UGKK) will most probably not be able to finish updating the land register before 2023, says an official report on the progress of the project.

"It is true that work on updating the information on the country's original land owners is delayed. However, the Agriculture Ministry is doing the work in cooperation with the cadastre office and it has already completed all the necessary tasks. There are some delays, though, on the part of the cadastre office," Katarína Czajlíková, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture, told The Slovak Spectator.

Historically, the state kept records of real estate on Slovakia's territory in the form of land registers and cadastre. However, there are land registers in which the last record was inscribed over 100 years ago.

Extremely fractured land ownership makes this task even more difficult. According to data from 1993, the average land in rural areas covers 0.45 hectares and belongs to 12 to 15 co-owners, wrote the financial daily Hospodárske noviny.

"Creating good conditions for the market means recording the latest data on the owners of original lands and providing that information through the cadastre's information system," director of the UGKK's cadastre department Matej Bada told the daily.

However, the land register has not been seriously updated since 1950, which means that new owners and heirs have often not been recorded.

The Agriculture Ministry and the UGKK started the land ownership update based on a 1995 law. However, their progress greatly depends on the availability of state funds.

The ministry's vision is to address landowners in Slovakia and request that they identify the original land that they owned before confiscations by the communist regime.

The updated register, along with the new register of Slovakia's inhabitants, will make up the core of the new state information system, the news wire SITA wrote.

Officials confirmed in mid December that an internet website with information from the Slovak cadastre would be created in February 2004. The database of information about real estate owners in Slovakia is expected to be available for free in its initial stages. Later, fees will be imposed for access to the data.

Andrej Votiško from the cadastre office said to the Slovak daily SME on December 18 that "the exact price list will be known at the start of the year."

The operation of the cadastre database should be similar to that of the business register, which is already in use and accessible on the internet. However, information from the database will not be valid as a legal document.

Pavol Kvarda from the cartography office explained that the internet information source is just the start of the office's online cadastre. He predicts that, within a few years, even property registration could take place online. That, however, depends on "the technical realisation of electronic signature."

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