This week, officials in Latvia supported the proposals to request at least *1st degree A level in Latvian language from people who wish to buy land in Latvia, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.
Amendments also state that in order to prevent fictive land purchase and sale cases, registration of land ownership rights in the Land Book will be allowed only after receiving permission from a municipal committee starting from 1 January 2018.
Members of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee on Tuesday, 7 March, decided on amendments to the Law on Land Privatisation in Rural Areas.
Amendments to the law are necessary because the European Commission has recently voiced disapproval of the land market regulations currently in force in Latvia. At the same time, the aforementioned legislative draft is intended to ease land procurement conditions for local farmers and prevent foreigners from buying land in the country if they do not live there on a regular basis.
«A number of proposals were discussed today in order to achieve the main goal of the legislative initiative – allow the land to be used for agricultural production and allow its use to the maximum possible capacity by Latvian residents. Unfortunately, only a handful of proposals submitted by the Farmers Saeima gained support. At the next meeting, deputies will have to decide whether to request documents from potential foreign land buyers to prove the legality of their finances or establish other requirements,» says the head of the committee Romans Naudins.
Deputies reviewed a number of proposals prepared based on objections from the European Commission. «Had we not done that, sanctions could have been imposed against Latvia. Our work group also contributed to the development of amendments. We also took into account residents’ collective initiative on prohibiting foreigners from purchasing land in Latvia. At the same time, we had to work intensely with multiple proposals to ensure that local farmers are considered as preferred buyers of land in the country,» Naudins said.
The legislative draft includes the condition that land in Latvia is not allowed to be purchased by citizens of the European Union, European Economic Zone and Swiss Confederation if they do not live in Latvia on a permanent basis. The same applies to foreigners that own businesses in Latvia. If a person does not live in Latvia and has no EU citizen registration document, they will not be allowed to purchase land in the country, Naudins explains.
Amendments state that municipal agricultural land will be allowed to be leased with purchase rights. It will be allowed to lease land for a period of up to twelve years, with annual pay set at 4.5% from cadastral value. Private persons that commence agricultural activities within a year after signing the lease contract will be eligible for land purchase. It will be allowed to purchase land no sooner than after four years. This order will come into force in 2018.
To avoid concentrating thousands of ha of agricultural land in the hands of the same people, the land purchase order is added with one additional restriction – associated people will be allowed to acquire no more than 4,000 ha of agricultural land. At the moment, a private or legal person can acquire no more than 2,000 ha of land. Municipalities will be able to set restrictions based on development priorities.
Amendments also provide for the exclusion of conditions stating that people that have received direct EU payments in the past three years are allowed to purchase land. Legal persons will no longer be applied with the requirement for at least one owner or constant worker to have appropriate professional education. EC has already launched a breach procedure against Latvia, saying that restrictions should be reasonable and not discriminatory against citizens of other EU member states.
Saeima’s committee intends to conclude work on amendments this Wednesday, 8 March, Naudins says. Amendments to the law will have to go through the Saeima before they can be approved.
*National Centre for Education of the Republic of Latvia explains: 1st degree A level provides that a person is able to use simple sentences and phrases to communicate with other Latvian speakers on everyday topics, with minimal use of professional terminology, as well as read and understand short and simple texts (advertisements and announcements), write texts containing personal information (name, surname, address, level of education, profession) and understand clearly spoken phrases and sentences on known topics.