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Slovakia to change rules for land acquisition

Decision comes after critical responses from Brussels.

Illustrative stock photo(Source: SME)

Slovakia will accept the critical comments from the European Commission and change the rules on foreigners acquiring land adopted by former agriculture minister Ľubomír Jahnátek in 2014, the Sme daily reported.

Under the current rules, people are entitled to acquire agricultural land if they have been active in agriculture production for at least three years and must have a residence permit in Slovakia valid for at least 10 years. The legislation pertains to plots larger than 2,000 square metres laying outside the territory of a municipality. Based on the law a land owner can sell his or her land to a foreigner only when he or she fails to find a purchaser in Slovakia, the Sme daily wrote. The aim of the law was to keep agricultural land in Slovak hands.

The new legislation was meant to prevent speculative purchases of land and improve the protection of land funds in Slovakia.

Read also:EC asks Slovakia to change its land law

The EC, however, considers some of the current rules discriminatory and restrictive to the free movement of capital and the freedom of establishment.

The country now has to exclude this rule, as was confirmed also by Jana Gasperová of the Agriculture Ministry’s press department. The ministry also does not plan to adopt changes that would favour Slovaks when acquiring land.

“Everybody in the European Union needs to have the same conditions,” Gasperová told Sme.

The government should discuss the amendment in October. The Agriculture Ministry promises that the new rules will simplify the bureaucracy and will help active farmers to acquire land more easily. The new rules have not been specified yet, Sme wrote.

It is also not clear what arguments Slovakia used when the EC criticised it for discriminating against foreigners last year. Brussels gave Slovakia an ultimatum in May, saying that the country will either amend the law or be brought to the EU court.

In addition to Slovakia, also four other countries are to change their rules: Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, and Hungary. The reasons, however, are different, Sme wrote.

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