Lithuanians will vote to keep land sales ban for foreigners

  

Lithuania will hold a referendum on keeping a ban on land sales to foreigners, officials said yesterday (17 February), a move analysts warned would put it at odds with EU regulations on the free movement of capital.

The vote got the go ahead after backers - among them a party led by one of the Baltic state's biggest farmland owners - collected the signatures of more than a tenth of the population to push the initiative through, said the electoral authority.

Lithuania had promised to drop the ban after joining the European Union in 2004 and was given a transitional period to keep it in place until May.

But campaigners called for it to be made permanent, some arguing lifting it could drive prices beyond the reach of locals.

Ownership of land is an emotional subject in a country that has suffered a string of occupations through its history.

"Lithuanians are very emotionally attached to land. We say that a sad person looks like if he has just sold his land'," Valdas Gaidys, head of pollster Vilmorus, told Reuters.

Opinion polls showed two-thirds of Lithuanians opposed to selling land to foreigners.

The referendum was initiated by the Lithuanian Nationalist Union and the Lithuanian Peasant and Green's Union, which is led by Ramunas Karbauskis, one of the biggest farmland owners in the Baltic state.

It is opposed by the ruling Social Democrats and the main opposition Homeland Union parties, as well as President Dalia Grybauskaitė, who has said voting in favour of the ban would be equal to voting against Lithuania's EU membership.

"If the referendum succeeds, Lithuania will be in clear violation of European Union law because it will restrict the free flow of capital," said Ignas Vegele, a professor at Vilnius Mykolas Romeris University.

Lithuania could be fined by the European Court of Justice, and access to EU funds, which account for 16% of the state's public expenditure, could be restricted, he added.

Lithuania's Chief Electoral Commission confirmed on Monday that those behind the iniative had collected the 300,000 signatures needed to call a vote - the first such popular initiative to succeed since the country broke away from the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

Parliament must choose a date for the vote between May and July.

A 50% turnout is needed for the referendum to pass a binding decision, and at least a third of the electorate must support the measure. 

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Comments

Iwantout's picture

By way of information, agricultural land in Lithuania is advertised for sale on the internet at 730 euro per hectare. In the UK a hectare of bare farm land will cost approximately 21,603 euro with prime arable land in East Anglia costing an average of 30,004 euro per hectare.

I suspect there will be a great many agricultural businesses in the UK that will see the opportunity to pay what they regard as ridiculously low land prices and in doing so completely pricing the local farmers out of the picture. I seem to remember Bulgaria was having similar problems in autumn last year.

an european's picture

money money money goes beyond the dignity ......

Konkorezis's picture

Kryžiuočiai, jums Lietuvių nepaimt. Pakrausim jums malkų ir kieno sveiki kaulai liks, galės pyzdint namo.

Local's picture

Lithuania are considering to claim a fine from the EU, as the EU has breached the contract to equalize payments to Lithuanian farmers to the same level as it is in old EU states. EU was committed to equalize payments till 2013.
Now everybody in Lithuania talk that foreigeners will see Lithuania land as their ears.

Daye Tucker's picture

The EU hasn't levelled the area payment playing field across its Nations so what have the Lithuanians got to lose by going down this route? CAP has distorted land prices disconnecting them from production.