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Base de données foncières en Europe: cas de l'Europe centrale et orientale

Cet article donne un aperçu des points communs en matière de développement de statistiques foncières en vue de la détermination de stratégies dans les Pays de l'Europe centrale et orientale (PECO), alimenté par le processus d'élargissement de l'Union européenne (UE). Ayant défini les exigences minimales de l'UE en matière de régime foncier et de données foncières, ainsi que les jeux de données foncières souhaitables au niveau national, l'article donne un instantané des régimes fonciers et dresse un tableau récapitulatif des démarches hongroises, polonaises, bulgares, croates et albanaises afin de satisfaire aux exigences de l'UE en matière de recensements agricoles et d'annuaires statistiques, d'enquêtes réalisées auprès de fermes démontrant une compatibilité avec le Réseau d'information comptable agricole (RICA) et de jeux de données foncières connexes et auxiliaires. Enfin, l'article aborde les tendances qui se font jour, émet des recommandations en matière de politiques, s'étend sur les questions et tire des conclusions sur la conception et l'amélioration des bases de données foncières du PECO.

Bases de datos de la tenencia agrícola en Europa: los casos de Europa central y oriental

Este artículo destaca los aspectos comunes del desarrollo de las estadísticas de titularidad territorial para la instauración de políticas en los países de Europa central y oriental, acometidas por el proceso de ampliación de la Union Europea (UE). Una vez definidos los requisitos mínimos de la UE sobre la tenencia de la tierra y los datos, así como los conjuntos de datos de titularidad territorial deseables a nivel nacional, el artículo ofrece una información general de los sistemas de tenencia en Hungría, Polonia, Bulgaria, Croacia y Albania para satisfacer los requisitos de la UE relacionados con los censos agrícolas y los anuarios estadísticos, las investigaciones compatibles con la Red de información contable agrícola y los conjuntos de datos complementarios relacionados con las tierras. Para finalizar, el artículo analiza las tendencias, recomienda políticas, contempla cuestiones y esboza conclusiones sobre el diseño y la mejora de las bases de datos de tenencia en los países de Europa central y oriental.

Land tenure databases in Europe: cases from Central and Eastern Europe

V. Evtimov
Vladimir Evtimov, Land Tenure and Rural Development Officer, FAO Subregional Office for Central and Eastern Europe

This article outlines the commonalities of development of land tenure statistics for policy-making in Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC), driven by the European Union (EU) enlargement process. Having defined minimum EU requirements on land tenure and data, as well as desirable land tenure data sets at the national level, the article gives a snapshot of land tenure Systems and summarizes the Albanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Hungarian and Polish approaches to meeting the EU requirements for agricultural censuses and statistical yearbooks, farm-level surveys compatible with the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) and auxiliary land-related data sets. Finally the article considers trends, makes policy recommendations, expands on issues and draws conclusions about the design and improvement of land tenure databases in CEEC.


The European Union enlargement and land tenur

Central and Eastern Europe is a region undergoing dramatic social and economic transition. Following the absolute domination of totalitarian communism and the central command economy for more than 40 years after the Second World War and the historical reversal that began in the 1990s, on 1 May 2004 ten new countries joined the developed democracies and market economy of the European Union (EU): Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Eight of these countries are from Central and Eastern Europe, and more seek to join the EU in the future. Bulgaria and Romania aim to become members in 2007, and Croatia and Turkey opened accession negotiations on 2 October 2005. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro (including the territory of Kosovo) have also set out on the way to EU membership. It seems that integration in Europe is the common vision of ail nations in the region.

The transition to democracy and a market economy directly affects the land tenure Systems of CEEC by reversion to private ownership, mass privatization and restitution, including farm lands. For some countries, EU accession is an opportunity to find their own solutions and improve their land tenure databases. In others, although the EU is a longer-term perspective, the data collection Systems are being designed to meet the requirements for EU membership. The selected cases dealt with in this paper are two new EU member countries (Hungary and Poland), one EU accession country (Bulgaria), one country that has just started accession negotiations (Croatia) and a western Balkan country with a strategic EU orientation (Albania). This article summarizes five case studies prepared by the author in 2002–04 under contract for FAO.

The EU enlargement process has been a catalyst for change for new EU members and potential members. It accelerated the implementation of complex and difficult political, institutional and economic reforms that require sustained commitment of national governments over many years.

The process of social transition from central planning to a market economy naturally addressed land tenure regimes and land markets. As fundamental and determinative features of any society, they were at the core of Central and Eastern European reforms. Under the former centralized economy, the dynamics of land utilization were relatively low due to economic isolation and dysfunctional land markets. This has hampered the highest and best use of land in Central and Eastern Europe. The domination of private property and the liberalization of land markets has put strong pressure on land use policies and legislation owing to highly increased market demand for alternative land uses (for example, commercial uses, tourism and recreation). Against the background of economic collapse, especially in rural areas, land tenure and land markets are of paramount importance in the attempts of reformist governments to revitalize flagging national and rural economies.

The dynamic arrangements of rural land tenure in the Central and Eastern European region are tackled by new agriculture and rural development strategies, in which the institutions of land tenure are both subject to and a means of introducing change. Adequate land-tenure statistics are required for policy-making and monitoring; policy-makers in Central and Eastern Europe endeavour to foster economic development and attract foreign investment by drawing up and implementing sustainable policies that address the national priorities, measure up with relevant EU policies and aim to satisfy the requirements of EU membership. It is imperative for these policies to monitor change effectively, including the changes of land tenure patterns.

Minimum EU land tenure and land tenure data requirements

The requirements in the EU acquis communautaire for land tenure Systems and land tenure data to be collected in Member States have been clarified in detail by Grover (2005). Therefore, only a brief overview is outlined below.

A functioning market economy such as the EU implies private ownership of the means of production, an efficient legal System for enforcement of property rights, competitive markets with freedom of entry and exit and well-developed capital markets, including efficient property markets (sales, leases and mortgages). Property markets, including in farm land, should be ready for accession. Land privatization and restitution should be complete, and the legal framework for real estate transactions and the property market infrastructure (e.g. land registration Systems) should be adequate.

The EU single internal market provides for free mobility of goods, labour, capital and enterprise, as well as rules of competition. Among other factors, free movement of capital covers the transfer of ownership of assets and liabilities, e.g. investments as companies and real estate including the purchase of land. Legislative bars to land ownership by foreigners and restrictions on farmland acquisition by companies are incompatible with EU membership. Farm businesses must be entitled to relocate to other EU states or to acquire farm businesses elsewhere in the common market. Companies dealing in real estate, including farmland, or offering estate agency services must be able to establish themselves anywhere in the EU and be permitted to offer cross-border services. The acquis allows no barriers to foreigners dealing in land or setting up real estate agencies, no discriminatory technical standards or refusal to recognize equivalent professional qualifications from elsewhere in the EU. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) requirement for the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) is directly relevant to land tenure. EU members must provide annually a farm-level survey with data on revenue, costs, inputs, outputs and employment for a representative sample of commercial farms. These data also cover the utilized agricultural area and proportions owned, leased and sharecropped. One national FADN liaison agency is responsible for this survey. The Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) for direct aid to farmers under the CAP is also linked to land tenure. An essential part of IACS - the Field Identification System - handles localization of declared fields and estimation of surface areas eligible for subsidies. It could be linked to ownership and tenancy data for verification purposes.

Sound statistics are needed for the conduct of EU policies: demographic and social, macroeconomic, business, environmental and agricultural statistics. Member States are obliged to carry out a census of agricultural holdings every ten years and three interim surveys of agriculture each decade. The data cover the structure and typology of agricultural holdings. The censuses include questions on the number of hectares in the utilized agricultural area that are owner-occupied, tenanted, or held by sharecropping.

The minimum EU land tenure information is very useful in policy formation and to monitor change. Such data cannot reflect social and environmental aspects in rural areas, however, because they were designed to monitor production. Monitoring land tenure and the land markets is essential for building up the rural economy. Several countries have successfully developed national land-tenure data sets, as an upgrade of the EU minimum. A farmland lease register has been instrumental in cases where leasing is the prevailing tenure in farming. As EU members are not required to collect land markets data, a strong case is made for doing this on a national basis. Such monitoring enables a holistic analysis of rural processes and the efficient design of development interventions with predictable outcomes.

A series of regional workshops by FAO on land tenure data in Central and Eastern Europe between 2002 and 2004 have summarized the minimum EU requirements and - based on Western European experiences - combined them with desirable data sets for national collection in a relevant matrix (Table 1).

A brief snapshot (Table 2) of the land tenure Systems in the country cases shows a degree of commonality in Central and Eastern Europe, despite natural variances owing to geographic, historic and cultural differences. Ail the countries have new or amended legislative frameworks, which have reinforced private ownership of land and real estate. The common features include the protection of property types by constitution and major structural changes of land ownership since the early 1990s, implemented through massive land reforms. There is a high incidence of farmland leases and hence their special protection by law. The legal form of farms shows diversity: state farms, farming cooperatives, private family and individual farms, farmers' associations and legal entities. Among the family and individual units, many are tiny subsistence farms. Serious fragmentation of farmland exists throughout the region, bringing forth a tendency towards land consolidation measures, and use of public land funds (land banks) as tools to facilitate consolidation - sometimes supported by special legislation. Fragmentation is coupled with demographic issues such as migration to urban areas and ageing of rural populations, as well as environmental issues that are a legacy of communism. This is a challenge for the viability of farms and the ability of these countries to cope with EU competitive pressures. Solving these problems requires integrated rural development measures underpinned by reliable land tenure data. The reforming of land administration Systems, with legal provisions for mortgaging real estate, is also common. The land market activity, which started from scratch or fairly low levels in the 1990s, is strongly influenced by EU accession. Virtually ail countries try to protect their land markets from the much higher purchasing power of many citizens in other parts of the EU by placing a ban on foreigners' ownership of farm and forest land and secondary residences for a transition period after the EU accession.

Table 1

Requirements of EU acquis and enlargement criteriaImplications for land tenure, land tenure data and desirable national data
Existence of a functioning market economyPrivate ownership of the means of production
Efficient legal System for enforcement of property rights
Compétitive markets with freedom of entry and exit
Well-developed capital markets
 Functioning property marketsComplete land privatization and restitution
Adéquate legal framework for real estate transactions, e.g. security of tenure for tenants
Adéquate market infrastructure, e.g. land registration to document ownership daims
Developed mortgage System and secured lending on property
Active land markets in terms of numbers of transactions
Single internal market and free mobility of goods, labour, capital and enterpriseFreedom of payments and money transfers, ability to repatriate profits
Free movement of capital for fixed investment
Free movement of capital for portfolio investment
Freedom to buy land and capital assets
 Elimination of legislative bars to foreigners' ownershipFree acquisition by foreigners of farm and forest land, and of residential property as secondary residences - transitional arrangements are negotiable
Free relocation of foreign farm businesses and free acquisition of local farm businesses
Free establishment of foreign companies and nationals dealing in real estate, including farmland, or offering estate agency services
No discriminatory technical standards, or failure to recognize equivalent professional qualifications from elsewhere in the EU
Common Agricultural Policy
 Farm Accountancy Data Network
Participation in the FADN - appoint liaison agency
Annually collect data from a representative sample of commercial farms
Data at farm level about revenue, costs, inputs, outputs and employment
Data at farm level about utilized agricultural area and proportion of owned, leased and sharecropped land
Data at farm level about non-agricultural farming activities such as forestry and tourism
 Field identification SystemSupporting the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) - direct CAP aids
Localizing fields and estimating surface areas
Linked to farmland ownership/tenancy, field surface areas and land use
StatisticsProduce accurate and harmonized data, compliant with EU standards and methodologies, in a permanent and sustainable way
Collect a range of data for conduct of EU policies in many areas: demographic, social, macroeconomic, business and environmental data, as well as data on agriculture
 Agricultural statisticsOnce a decade organize a comprehensive agricultural census
Organize three interim surveys per décade
Collect data on structure and typology of agricultural holdings
Surveys include acreage of utilized agricultural area that is owner occupied, tenanted or sharecropped
Desirable national land tenure data sets
 Farmland lease registerMonitoring farmland tenancy as a tool in the IACS
 Land markets dataMonitoring farmland prices and farmland lease prices

The case studies have identified a variety of land tenure data sources in the five CEEC. They are grouped according to their relevance to the minimum EU land-tenure data requirements, in three categories: agricultural statistics produced by comprehensive censuses, partial surveys for data supply to the FADN and available land-tenure data sets beyond the EU requirements, collected by national initiatives.

Agricultural census

While ail the countries considered have both a national statistical body and a ministry of agriculture, their involvement and role in agrostatistics vary. For the new EU members and accession countries it is essential to have a census meeting the Eurostat norms, as baseline data for the agriculture after the end of intensive land reforms. Such a census was conducted in 2000 in Hungary by the Central Statistical Office in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Poland's Central Statistical Office carried out the national census in 2002 in parallel with a population and housing census, which reduced the role of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. On the contrary, in Bulgaria only the methodology of its AC 2003 was jointly developed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and the National Statistical Institute; the census was carried out by the Agrostatistics Directorate at the ministry alone. Harmonization with the EU acquis was not mandatory for the western Balkans. Croatia intended to obtain precise data to support policy-makers in identifying issues, planning and decision-making, and chose to use a methodology that was fully compliant with Eurostat's. The body in charge of agrostatistics - the Central Bureau of Statistics (DZS) - carried out the 2003 census on its own. Albania's last general agricultural census - in 1998 - was not harmonized with EU criteria. It was realized jointly by the National Institute of Statistics (InStat) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food - the Directorate of Statistics, which is mainly responsible for agrostatistics. The application of EU requirements in the agricultural censuses has been a challenge, especially in applying the Eurostat methodology known as Economic Accounts for Agriculture (EAA), which underlies the FADN, and the production of standard gross margins. Quite often, the problems result from the fragmented agricultural land tenure structure, which is difficult to reflect correctly with the EAA methodology, and the national accounting standards, which may differ from those of the EU. Difficulties suffered by agrostatistics units in ail cases were understaffing and underfunding, the need for further training of staff and temporary employed enumerators and maintaining the capacity of the census bodies. With the assistance of national stakeholders and international donors (the European Commission, FAO and others), the difficulties proved surmountable.

Table 2

Country profile:     
 Area29 000 km2111 000 km288 000 km293 000 km2313 000 km2
 Population density123/km270/km279/km2107/km2125/km2
 Rural population (% of total)55%30%41%30%33%
 Agriculture share in GDP25%12%9%3%3%
 Percentage of labour force occupied in agriculture24%11%15%6%16%
Property types protected by constitutionPrivate, publicPrivate, state, municipalPrivate, statePrivate, state, municipal, cooperativePrivate, state, cooperative
Structural change of land ownership (private lands):     
 under command economy0%1%64%7%67%
 at present80%74%68%76%91%
 land reformCompletedCompletedOngoingCompletedOngoing
Leased land as share of total land used in agriculture10%58%< 10% 160%< 10%*
Special protection of farm land leases - types of tenancy protected by lawLeases: < 10 yr (field),
< 30 yr (perennial plantation),
< 99 yr (with investment)
“Rent” - short term < 4yr, “farm lease” - long term > 4 yr“Lease” < 10 yr (field),
< 25 yr (perennial plantation); “concession”
< 10 yr (field),
< 40 yr (perennial plantation)
Lease < 10 yrSpecial pre-emptive rights for leases > 10 yr
Share of private land farmed by family units100%56%86%54%82%
Average area of farm land     
 Owned0.97 ha2.3 ha2.6 ha4.5 ha8.5 ha
 Cultivated1.72 ha2.8 ha-4.8 ha10.4 ha
Special legislation     
 Land consolidationPi lotsIn draft, pi lotsYes (1940s), pi lotsIn draft, pilotsYes (1968)
 Public land fundNoIn draftYesYesYes
Land administration SystemNew single agency, reformingRegister and cadastre, reformingRegister and cadastre, reformingSingle agency, reformedRegister and cadastre, reforming
Mortgage legislationYesYesYesYesYes
Land market activityLow, improvingImproving with EU accession dateLow, improvingMuch improved after EU accessionHigh after EU accession
Land acquisition by foreigners:NoNoNoNoNo
 Transition period after EU accessionnot yet applicable7 yearsnot yet applicable7 years12 years

1 Anecdotal information obtained by the author.

The data from the censuses were used in negotiations with the EU by Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland and included utilized agricultural area and proportions of owned, leased and sharecropped land at the farm level. Aggregate data are published by standard units of the EU Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS). In Poland, apart from the land use and ownership structure, further data were sought about fragmentation and distances between parcels. In Albania and Bulgaria, the censuses were the first to identify ail farms operating in the country and to establish or reinforce the general register of agricultural units. Croatian land tenure data included land leased in and out and the number of parcels of utilized agricultural area in the farm. The land data in Albania referred to total area, the utilized agricultural area of the farm units and area under various crops, but no data were collected on tenure.

Annual farm level surveys for the Farm Accountancy Data Network

The selection of national liaison agencies for FADN and the organization of annual sample surveys were approached differently in each country case among the new EU members and accession countries. Poland has had relevant experience in conducting annual surveys of farm accounts since 1926 in the Institute of Agricultural and Food Economies. The full-fledged introduction of the United Accountancy System of Agricultural Farms there was carried out in 2003. The Research and Information Institute for Agricultural Economies in Hungary was appointed as liaison agency, running separate surveys for individual farms and for corporate farms. The information is collected by professional accountants affiliated with the 11 accounting offices throughout the country. Bulgaria had to develop its capacity for the Agricultural Accounting Information System and did so using the Agrostatistics Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.

Owing to the generally small farm sizes in CEE, the vast majority of farm holdings are outside the FADN population of commercial farms. This makes the data sets less suitable for policy-making, as they are less representative. Before the 2003 census, the lack of comprehensive typology of Bulgarian farms was a major obstacle for the early implementation of FADN.

In the western Balkans, the need to join FADN is not urgent, but countries nevertheless are getting ready. The Croatian DZS undertakes several sampling surveys in agriculture every year, including regular ones that resemble FADN: inputs, outputs and gross margins are recorded, with no land tenure items in the questionnaire. The FADN requirements are well known by the professional DZS staff, but so far no political decision has been taken on the institutional mandate. The Albanian Directorate of Statistics at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, in coordination with InStat, ran one sampling survey of sizable farms (though the definition of these is not as yet coordinated with FADN). Data were collected at the individual farm level from a sample of 3 000 farms about inputs, outputs, production mix, land leased in and out, rents paid and gross margins. The Albanian authorities will still need additional technical assistance and advice to organize a FADN-compatible survey.

Auxiliary data sets

Auxiliary data sets are kept by the land administration structures - land and mortgage registries and cadastres; in registers of leases, farmers, farms or Systems for distribution of national and EU farm subsidies; and in agricultural information Systems, tax registers, land valuation Systems and so on.

In Hungary, the land administration structure is integrated under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The Department of Lands and Mapping maintains several land tenure databases. Two information Systems are maintained in the 116 district land offices - the landowner System and the land use one, using a common information technology infrastructure. Ail sales are registered in the landowner System and ail farmland leases in the land use System, with an identification of the parcel that is the object of the transaction, the subject legal entity or individual and the interest. The data are at the basic unit level, not public, and not linked to a farm register. Some data aggregation is carried out at the county level within 19 land offices. Land tenure data were also collected by surveys in land consolidation pilots, covering ownership, leases, land use, fragmentation and intentions of owners for management or disposal of lands, but these data are only a sample.

In Poland, the Land and Buildings Cadastre covers the whole territory with descriptive and graphical data in digital format, and the Land and Mortgage Register covers less than half of the properties. The data in the Land and Buildings Cadastre provide information mainly on the parcels and their owners, while the Land and Mortgage Register provides data about the rights to properties. The two registers are not completely up-to-date. At present, there are no obligations for the registration of leases, but there are plans to amend the legislation. An integrated Real Estate Information System on the basis of existing registers is being built up. The tax register covers the whole territory, and annually collects returns from farms and properties, where data about the area and type of land use are collected. A database of market prices of agricultural properties was developed, which are aggregated at the community level to make maps of the market value of land. When fully compiled, this database will be used to introduce an ad valorem taxation System. Every year, the statistical offices also collect statistical returns from farmers, including total land area and a breakdown by land use. The Task Force for Restructuring of the Agriculture Information System in Poland is considering developing a land tenure database by integrating data from various sources.

The land administration databases in Bulgaria were updated in recent restitution processes, and for rural lands are kept by the Department of Registers and Land Tenure in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MAF). Land leases are registered there. The 272 municipal offices of MAF collect most land tenure data. They keep the register of farm operators produced by the 2003 census, and the pilot rural land-tenure register in which tenancies are reflected at the farm level, based on returns from the farmers. This register is used for administrative control. The data sets may be linked and aggregated at higher administrative levels for analysis and policy-making. The MAF Department of Agrostatistics also carries out annual sample surveys of the utilized agricultural area for operational control of cereal crops and land utilization. Since 1998, the Agro-Marketing Information System (SAPI) has published a bulletin of farmland prices and leases - the result of sample surveys aggregated at NUTS 3 level (28 oblasts - administrative regions).

The land book and the cadastre are being reconciled in Croatia. Reportedly, the currency and data accuracy in the land books is often insufficient for statistical purposes. The cadastre data, on the other hand, are used as a basis for many land-related statistical surveys, as the alphanumeric records are digital and more readily accessible. The Directorate for Market and Structural Support of Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management maintains the register of farms for control of government subsidies; approximately 30 percent of the farm households are registered. The land tenure data in these records come mainly from declarations of farmers and extracts of the cadastre, causing duplication and inconsistencies of data. The Ministry of Finance has its own monitoring System for land market values, based on monitoring the declared prices in transaction contracts. The issue of underdeclaring prices exists, and as a result the assessments arrive at an artificial tax value, irrelevant for monitoring the market.

The land administration bodies in Albania produce monthly and annual statistics extracted from the monitoring and evaluation reports of the district offices. The data cover ail transactions, broken down by types of land (including agricultural lands), types of transaction (sale, mortgage, lease), extent of land transacted, declared price and other factors. This could be a valuable source of land tenure data if linked to other data sets; however, links are now virtually impossible, as the data are maintained manually, and as some external registers - such as the population register - are still not upgraded to meet the modem requirements. These statistics are underutilized. The issues faced are the accelerated completion of first registration and the computerization of data maintenance in the Immovable Property Registration System (IPRS). The Soil Institute in Albania maintains parcel-based soil productivity data, applied for tax assessment and linked with the IPRS data sets, which are used to define the taxable persons. The Soil Institute also implements a pilot land-use information System in several municipalities.

Slower yet significant evolution of land tenure can be foreseen in Central and Eastern European in the years to come, driven by markets, demographic factors and government policies. Rural areas will undergo substantial change over the course of the next generation. Regional and rural development, with elements of land consolidation and government intervention in the land markets, is likely to modify rural landscapes and tenure patterns. Land markets, including rural ones, will be accessible to expatriates with considerable purchasing power. Despite the current ban on land ownership by foreigners, countries have already experienced increased demand from abroad on land and farmhouses as secondary residences around scenic areas, resorts and fishing and hunting sites. When the ban comes to an end, one can expect a further influx of foreign farming businesses buying or renting farmland.

Central and Eastern European governments and policy-makers recognize the requirement to collect land tenure data systematically. Competent authorities in each country are investing in statistical censuses and surveys, and are creating land administration Systems that will potentially be major data providers after completion of their establishment. The re-engineering of official agricultural censuses and surveys was and is a unique chance to add value to these government functions at a relatively low cost. Data collection practices and relevant networks exist in ail CEEC, and further capacity can be developed to undertake functions related to land tenure data. The weakest field of land tenure statistics is the monitoring of market values and rents, and rural land leases - an area where there is little experience, and no EU requirement. Ministries of agriculture are now designing new information Systems to support their land management functions in a market economy environment.


On the basis of commonalities observed in the development of land tenure and land markets in the whole Central and Eastern European region, several policy priorities can be identified: sustainability, coordination and harmonization, focus on land markets and information technology.


Data collection opportunities

Land and lease markets and market values in Central and Eastern Europe have been neglected in the past. There are several government bodies that are likely to be involved in the collection of rural land data: agricultural ministries, statistics departments, tax authorities, cadastres, land registries and local authorities, as well as some non-governmental organizations including academic institutions, agricultural researchers, professional unions of valuers, farmers and real estate professionals. New initiatives, such as a national land market valuation base, may develop new data collection bodies. Brand-new land tenure surveys, however, would hardly be affordable for any country in the region. The variety of potential collectors may offer to rural policy-makers an opportunity to focus on assembly and compilation, rather than on collecting a national land tenure database. By careful coordination of data collectors, harmonization of their methodology, integration and the application of quality control techniques, it may be possible to upgrade the existing database. National interdisciplinary task forces such as the one for restructuring the agriculture information System in Poland are good models for such options.

Clearly, some sources of fundamental land tenure data, such as cadastres, land registries or tax records, are potential sources of statistical land tenure data. However, there are problems with using these data sets. Ail case studies identified problems with the interoperability of existing data sets. Their coverage is rarely complete, and they focus on the parcel and the owner or the tenant (by contrast, agricultural censuses focus on the farm holding and the actual farmer or farmers' household). Relating registered landowners or tenants to farm units is highly problematic, unless special registers of farm operators are maintained. The land and lease values registered may not be the market ones, or may have systematic biases resulting from tax evasion strategies of the farmers. In some countries, these data sets are bound by excessive privacy constraints, and may not be used for purposes different from the prescribed ones. Also, it may be difficult to distinguish between rural and urban land in these records; the classification used may be incompatible with agrostatistics, so their utility for monitoring the intensity of land markets may be low. Such issues require national coordination and standardization of data sets to provide compatibility and enable data integration. If possible, minor amendments to these data sets may bring about significant improvements to land tenure databases.

More versatile analyses

In the design of such a land tenure database, policy-makers may include new data items, or expand the scope of agricultural censuses and farm surveys, to allow analysis of land tenure in association with social, demographic and environmental factors in rural areas. Despite the EU minimum requirements, not only commercial farms but also subsistence farms should be covered by a national land tenure database in ail the CEEC countries here discussed. Such analyses may be helpful, for example, in planning early retirement schemes in rural areas, providing incentives to subsistence farmers to become commercial, diversify into non-agricultural sectors or leave agriculture altogether. In this sense, versatility of land tenure data will be improved if farm surveys are linked to data from population and housing censuses, as well as environmental data.

Greater stakeholder involvement and efficiency

The provision of similar data by farmers to farm surveys, censuses, tax authorities, cadastral surveys and local governments often means duplication of costs and efforts, and even confusion if the definitions of similar data items do not match. Land tenure data are not only required at the central government level; regional and local policy-makers and agencies also need such statistics to design their strategies. Their needs are not always considered at the central level, but this would be an opportunity to join rather than duplicate efforts. Involving local actors in the maintenance of land tenure databases may improve the sustainability of data series, as well as reduce costs. Data exchange between the existing databases kept by stakeholders at various levels may also assist in the reduction of duplication and improved efficiency. Such steps, however, require a national strategy on information and communication technology, which goes far beyond the task of developing land tenure databases.

Sharing of experience

For historical reasons there is a poor tradition and weak institutions for monitoring land tenure in the CEE region, which points to the need for capacity and institution building. The actors who are apparently most involved and interested in good land tenure data are the ministries of agriculture and rural development. In the absence of “best” international practices, in each country case they have sought and found their own approaches to solving the most urgent data gathering priorities. Owing to EU requirements, these priorities include a minimum land tenure data set. Additional needs exist, however, in the development of land and lease market-monitoring Systems. In building this capacity, countries in Central and Eastern Europe would benefit from sharing relevant international experience.


Land tenure databases are unique to each country because of the individual features of national land tenure Systems. Their important role in monitoring changes and informing rural development policies is commonly recognized. In the EU, Member States have obligations directly related to land tenure data provision. Countries have a priority to satisfy the minimum EU land-tenure requirements and successfully implement timely measures to meet both the EU criteria and the data collection standards. They have set up the baseline data to be monitored over a longer period. Efforts in designing a better land tenure database today are a good investment in terms of the future.

Although EU Member States have better statistics on these sorts of data, no country has a perfect approach. The application of EU standards for agrostatistics, including the tenure data, faces difficulties in CEE countries. It is not easy to adapt the methodologies designed for western EU farms to Central and Eastern European national realities, especially with regard to farm typology and structure, because of the widespread fragmentation of farms in Central and Eastern Europe.

In addition to the mandatory EU data sets on land tenure, there are desirable national data sets on land and lease markets, and on the actual tenants of the land. Such aspects of the land tenure databases are less developed in the case study countries. There are weak track records of monitoring land and lease market prices in Central and Eastern Europe. Issues related to the quality of tenure data in basic land records, as well as privacy arrangements, reduce the utility of such sources for policy-making. Monitoring or registration of farm leases is deemed useful in the case study countries.

In this respect, accession and approximation countries may benefit from sharing knowledge and international experience. Despite their recognized necessity, particularly in relation to the land consolidation efforts and the achievement of the EU criterion for viable farms, targeted efforts to monitor the land tenure are just starting. The major challenges, issues and bottlenecks are in the fields of interdepartmental coordination and standardization of data items in the various surveys related to land tenure.

The design of land tenure databases should be high on the agenda of governments if future benefits from such data are to be fully exploited. The current review of government data collection functions urged by the EU enlargement process is a good opportunity to improve the national databases on land tenure for policy-making purposes.


Grover, R. 2006. European Union accession and land tenure data in Central and Eastern Europe. Land Reform, Land Settlement and Cooperatives, 2006/1:14–27.

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