Hungary Bans Foreign Farmland Ownership

Hungary this week moved to ban foreign ownership of agricultural land under its new constitution amid fears over the future of family farming in the country.

The Hungarian Parliament passed a government proposal Monday to amend its 2011 Constitution, or Fundamental Law, to assure that in the future, only Hungarian farmers can purchase Hungarian farmland.

The law set Hungary on a collision course with the European Union, which had given Hungary until 2014 to phase out similar restrictions under previous laws as a condition of continued financial and development aid.

The government of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban hailed Monday’s 263-87 vote as providing “stability, predictability and the opportunity for secure planning for those who live off agriculture.”

Backers say it will halt an influx of foreign “speculators” from Austria, Italy and elsewhere who are using subterfuge to snap up distressed family farms at bargain prices.

“This is the beginning of a new era for agriculture,” a statement issued by the Hungarian Ministry of Rural Development said. “The Constitution protects Hungarian farmland, our heritage and the basis of our livelihoods, from foreign and domestic speculators alike.”