Foreign land ownership: Why are the Polish and Hungarian measures in discrimination with EU citizens’ right to acquire agricultural land within the European Union?

  • Florence Humblet

Abstract

This thesis focuses on the acquisition of agricultural land by foreigners – citizens of other EU Member States – in Poland and Hungary. Land is a fundamental resource of the nation state. Without land, constituting the delimitation of their territory, countries cannot exist. It possesses special features – e.g. limited area, economic importance, evocation of national sentiment and security – which represent much of the wealth of a state and its population. Because of its precious value, states have at different periods taken measures to restrict the possibility of foreigners’ acquiring land within their territories. Traditionally, foreigners, categorized as non-nationals of a state, were not allowed to acquire land. During the feudal period, they were seen as potential enemies to the nations. This attitude was developed and entertained by the special feudal relationship binding the people living within one territory – e.g. tenants were allowed to use their lord’s land and in return they owed him services and a personal obligation of loyalty. Being free of accountableness, foreigners had no attachment to that specific land. Centuries later, the mentality towards foreigners changed. After the French Revolution, the principles of equality and fraternity were highlighted, setting citizens and foreigners on equal footing. Although this trend seems to continue, many states nowadays still restrict foreign land ownership. Within the European context, it can be noticed that even though free movement of persons is one of the cornerstones of the internal market, EU citizens still are sometimes confronted in real life with some infringements on their free movement rights.

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Published
2013-07-01