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Bucharest (AFP) Nov 21, 2013
Romania's government opened the way for European Union citizens to acquire farmland from next year, by approving the proposal on Thursday.
The bill will be debated in an emergency procedure in parliament where the governing centre-left coalition controls 70 percent of the seats.
Romania has the 5th-largest expanse of farmland in the European Union but it had banned foreigners from acquiring agricultural land unless they teamed up with a Romanian partner within a business.
These restrictions were intended to protect local farmers since their incomes, and the price of land, were substantially lower than in Western Europe.
With the new law, citizens from the the European Union, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland will be able to buy agricultural land in their own names.
The State, neighbours, sharecroppers or Romanian farmers aged up to 40 living in the area where the land is to be bought will be able to pre-empt a deal with a foreigner.
The government abandoned the idea of imposing a 100-hectares limit on the surface which may be bought.
"The pre-emption right is a good measure but we have to see how it will be implemented", Attila Szocs, the president of Eco Ruralis, a non-governmental organisation defending small local farmers told AFP.
"The new law will not change much to the fact that many big foreign companies are already buying a lot of land in Romania", he stressed.
More than 700,000 hectares of Romania's farmland, or six percent of the total, are already controled by foreign investors, including investors from Lebanon, China, the Netherlands and Denmark.
In May, a report by European Coordination Via Campesina showed that land concentration in the hands of big foreign investors has been increasing in Eastern Europe as well as in developing countries in Africa and Asia.
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