The European Court’s Tuesday decision means that Brussels chose to side with foreign land speculators once again, the Minister of Agriculture stated on Tuesday in Jászberény where he attended a farmers’ forum.

Sándor Fazekas responded with this comment to the fact that, according to the ruling of the European Court adopted on Tuesday, the Hungarian regulations relating to the usufruct of agricultural land are unlawful. According to the Minister, the decision is in harmony with statements made by Gergely Karácsony, candidate for prime minister of MSZP-Párbeszéd and by MSZP, who would take landed properties away from their rightful owners, the farmers who had bought them.

At the press conference held before the farmers’ forum Mr Fazekas pointed out that the purpose of the contested Hungarian law was to ensure that Hungarian land cannot be acquired by foreign speculators by means of trickery any more, as was the case during former left-liberal governments. The court ruled against Hungarian farmers and in favour of foreigners in two individual cases, he pointed out, adding that these cases will be returned to Hungary to be heard at first instance. He stressed Hungarian farmers must be land owners, fake contracts must be persecuted, and rules seeking to deceive farmers, including the “usufruct arrangement”, must be eliminated.

The Minister highlighted that already under left-wing governments foreign speculators were preparing for the acquisition of 600,000 hectares of Hungarian land in 2011, after the end of the moratorium on the acquisition of land by foreigners, through the conclusion of fake contracts. The national government foiled these attempts by annulling fake contracts, introducing the constitutional protection of Hungarian land and enacting a new land law, he said. By Mr Fazekas’s account, there were particularly many people in the Transdanubia region who leased landed areas with usufruct to foreigners indefinitely or for long terms, thereby avoiding the relevant land lease procedures. The government put an end to this process with a legal obstacle in 2014, he said.

He stressed the government’s goal remains unchanged: Hungarian land must be kept in Hungarian hands, it must be protected from foreign speculators, the percentage of small holdings and family farms must be increased and the percentage of large estates must be reduced. These aspirations strengthen the rural middle classes, increase the number of jobs and improve the countryside’s viability.

At the farmers’ forum Mr Fazekas praised the Jászság region as one of Hungary’s strongest agricultural regions; its production and animal husbandry traditions are outstanding, and the region has a very strong farming community.

János Pócs, Fidesz Member of Parliament for the constituency also responded to the Brussels decision by stating at the press conference that the decision is further indication of the fact that if the opposition wins the elections on 8 April, Hungarian land will be in danger again.

In answer to the question of the Hungarian news agency MTI, Mr Fazekas said that since 2010 some 70,000 new jobs had come into being: 50,000 of them in agriculture and around 20,000 in the food industry. Net average earnings in agriculture have increased one and a half fold, while there has been a 58 per cent increase in the food industry. Food industry exports, too, have increased by some 34 per cent, he added. Mr Fazekas highlighted some Member States of the European Union seek to push through “forced march style” the conclusion of a free trade agreement between the European Union and large Latin American countries, such as Brazil. As a result, foodstuffs such as pork, poultry and maize of inferior quality would be dumped on the European market, including in consequence the Hungarian market, in vast quantities at low prices, he warned. Hungary has no interest in the conclusion of such a trade agreement, will not support it, and if necessary will veto it, Mr Fazekas pointed out.

(Ministry of Agriculture Press Office)