(AFP) Hungary has amended its constitution to bar foreigners from buying farmland, a move the government called “historic,” but one that could cause friction with the European Union.
Foreigners are already blocked from buying farmland under a temporary measure that formed part of Hungary’s EU accession agreement in 2003.
But that measure, aimed at helping Hungary avoid seeing its land prices soar to catch up with other EU states including neighbouring Austria, was originally set to expire in 2011, though was extended until the end of April 2014.
Hungarian lawmakers on December 17 voted by a large majority to amend the constitution to bar foreigners from buying Hungarian farmland.
“The constitution will guard Hungarian land as a national treasure, our common inheritance and basis for our living, and protect it from domestic and foreign speculators,” a statement from the rural development ministry said.
The vote was a “historic decision” and the “beginning of a new era for agriculture,” it continued.
The government says farmland needs to be protected from speculators and bankers looking to score bargains at the expense of farmers.