The Land Law

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Jobbik and Politics Can Be Different representatives protest the new Land Law.

Jobbik and Politics Can Be Different representatives protest the new Land Law.

During voting in the National Assembly on the new Fidesz-KDNP-supported Land Law on June 21, 2013, nearly all representatives from the radical-nationalist Jobbik party occupied the speaker’s platform and displayed a sign reading “Treason!” (Hazaárulás!) while chanting “traitors!” (hazaárulók!). Meanwhile, those from the liberal-green Politics Can Be Different (LMP) party displayed a sign reading “Land Distribution Instead of Land Robbery!” (Földrablást helyett földosztást!) while shouting criticism of the law through a megaphone (source in Hungarian).

Jobbik opposed the law because it did not specifically ban foreigners, including those from European Union members states other than Hungary, from purchasing agricultural or forested land. Parties from the democratic opposition opposed the law because it permitted purchases of up to 1,800 hectares of agricultural or forested land and did not prohibit multiple members of a single household from purchasing such land, thus establishing the possibility of creating family-owned large estates (source in Hungarian).

Fidesz National Assembly representative József Ángyán withdrew from the party’s parliamentary caucus to sit with legislative independents following the adoption of the Land Law, which he charged would preserve the hold of major capital interests and party-affiliated “maffias” over agricultural property in Hungary to the exclusion of local farmers (see Cracks in the Monolith)

The National Assembly subsequently fined 40 Jobbik representatives and three Politics Can Be Different representatives for their participation in the protest against the new Land Law (see The National Assembly: Fines Imposed on National Assembly Representatives for Offensive Speech and Expression).

The European Union Objections to the Land Law

On October 16, 2015, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Hungary on the grounds that the unilateral annulment of usufruct contracts “seems to deprive the affected parties of their acquired rights and of the value of their investments” (source in Hungarian).

On May 26, 2016, the European Commission requested that Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania amend their land laws because they represented restrictions on the free movement of capital within the European Union (source in English). The European Commission stated in the request that “Hungary has a very restrictive system which imposes a complete ban on the acquisition of land by legal entities and an obligation on the buyer to farm the land himself.”

In response to the European Commission’s request, Minister in charge of the Prime Ministry János Lázár said “This is a big dispute, one might say that there will be a war” (source in Hungarian).