Hungary gov t approves request to EU on land purchase ban extension (adds EU response)
<p>Budapest, September 1 (MTI) - Hungary s government has approved a document requesting the European Union to extend a moratorium on arable land purchases by foreigners for three years after the current ban expires on April 30, 2011, Minister of Agriculture Sandor Fazekas told a news conference on Wednesday.</p>
The minister argued that land prices in Hungary were about half or a third of western European prices, and an inflow of foreign investors would push up prices and put Hungarian farmers at a disadvantage.
The ban has been in force since Hungary joined the European Union in May 2004.
Before formulating the request, Hungary consulted with a number of foreign politicians, including the EU s agriculture commissioner, Fazekas said.
The minister added that Hungary s endeavours for getting an extension were backed by France, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria as well as the Visegrad Four countries.
Roger Waite, a spokesman for the EU s agriculture commissioner, said that Hungary will be expected to present a detailed justification of the extension request. Hungary has the right to request a three-year extension of the moratorium but the commission will thoroughly study the reasons, he added.
Other EU sources told MTI that the commission was concerned about the drop in foreign investment in Hungarian agriculture in recent years and this will be taken into consideration when assessing the request.