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Prime Minister Clash With Opposition Parties In Farmland Debate

Tamás Székely 2015.10.20.

Farmland should be entrusted to farmers, who know how to cultivate it, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told Parliament on Monday, in his reply to opposition questions concerning the government’s programme of selling off stateowned plots. The prime minister said that some 20% of Hungary’s state-owned farmland would be sold out, and added that he thought that ratio was too low.

Socialist MP Gábor Harangozó said that “selling out state-owned farmland equals to selling out national independence”. In his response, Orbán suggested that the Socialists may “wish for (communist-era) cooperatives and state farms” and insisted that “the state should have no agricultural ventures, but delegate those tasks to those who have the skills”. Responding to Zsolt Legény, another Socialist MP, Orbán repeated his position, adding that “we do understand that you prefer keeping farmland in state ownership, since it was you who had seized it from private owners”. The government, on the other hand, seeks to give that land to farmers and “implement a hundredyear-old smallholder programme,” Orbán said. In his answer Legény noted that he was born in 1978 and had not been “in a position to seize anything”.

Radical nationalist Jobbik MP Zoltán Magyar asked the prime minister about businessman Lőrinc Mészáros, who had “snatched 800 hectares of state-owned land leaving no chance for local farmers”. Orbán responded that Mészáros, who is also mayor of Orbán’s native Felcsút, employs 700 people and “we are glad that he is prosperous”.

Last week cabinet chief János Lázár told told a weekly government press briefing that public auctions of state-owned farmland will start on 16th of November. The auctions would be started in six counties. The government wants to get the best price possible for farmland he said, adding that it was inconceivable that sales would go ahead for prices below market value. The Hungarian Development Bank (MFB) has offered a total of 150 billion forints (EUR 482m) credit line for the farmland sale scheme, Lázár said. The loans come with twenty years maturity with interest set at 1.95% in the first ten years under the arrangements of the central bank’s lending for growth scheme. The minimum loan available is 3 million forints and the maximum 300 million forints, he added.

via and MTI photo: Zoltán Máthé – MTI