Excerpt from Reuters (www.reuters.com)
"Where there is farmland, there is battle," his agriculture minister Sandor Fazekas told a farming conference in Budapest last month.
While Brussels examines whether Orban's land laws infringe the bloc's principles of free movement and shared economic rules, Orban's government is appealing to Hungary's history as a nation often called upon to defend its fertile plains from envious foreigners.
"We need to do everything we can to ensure that farmland, be it leased or owned, remains with Hungarian people, Hungarian farmers and Hungarian smallholders," Fazekas said.
Editor's note: The conservative government of Hungary has made it a priority to protect Hungarian agricultural land. The majority of foreigners who own large tracts of prime agricultural land in Hungary are Austrians who bought up the land cheap in the last two decades. They paid about 1/10 the price that they would have had to pay in the European Union for the same agricultural land. The new laws enacted by the conservative government could force the Austrians off the agricultural lands. Many fear that this action could open up a new battle with the European Union (Brussels).
Hungarian authorities say some Austrians got around an EU-approved moratorium on foreigners owning farmland by creating special contracts with the Hungarian landlord, which give them quasi-ownership rights. The people who work these lands are not even Hungarian but "guest workers" from neighbouring countries that are paid dirt cheap compared to what a Hungarian worker would cost.
In the end, it is the Hungarian people who end up as losers in this situation. They receive no benefits from the foreign-owned agricultural lands in their own country. The European Commission is set to rule next month on Hungary's new agricultural land law.