Accession to the EU has important implications for rural land tenure. The adoption of the acquis requires the new Member States to collect statistics on land tenure as part of FADN and the surveys of agricultural holdings. They must create an IACS administration for the payment of aid under the CAP, which requires a database of farmland parcels together with their locations and sizes. These provide powerful tools for the monitoring of land tenure changes and these data are invaluable for the development of land tenure and rural development policies.
The EU is a single market. There is free movement of capital so that citizens and companies from one EU country are able to invest in other EU countries. Investment implies the acquisition of fixed assets such as housing, agricultural land and forests. Without free movement of capital there cannot be free movement of labour or enterprise. Free movement of enterprises means that farmers from elsewhere in the EU must be able to establish themselves in the new Member States, and they must be able to acquire and invest in farms. However, many of the Central and Eastern European countries have restrictions on foreigners owning secondary residences, agricultural land or forests. Concerns have been expressed as to what could happen if affluent citizens or companies from the pre2004 Member States were to take advantage of their greater wealth to purchase farms and secondary residences in the new Member States, something that the single market will make possible.
While most of the new Member States have been granted transitional exemptions from opening up their rural markets to purchasers from other Member States, eventually rural land and residential markets will be accessible to purchasers from elsewhere in the EU. The transitional periods are relatively short and, as they come to an end, the applicant countries are likely to experience an influx of Western European farming businesses buying or renting farmland, attracted by lower production costs. There are also likely to be purchases of land and farmhouses as secondary residences or for tourism. A free market in land is likely to see the development of more complex tenure patterns than developed during the transition period - for example, as those who purchase houses surrounded by farmland for amenity reasons rent out surplus land. Entry to the EU and the opening up of the land markets is likely to result in the rural areas of the new Member States undergoing substantial change over the course of the next generation.
Effective means for monitoring these changes and the ability to develop appropriate policies will be essential. The requirements of EU membership to participate in FADN and the agricultural census and to create an IACS provide some of the means to collect the data on land tenure necessary for the creation of an informed land tenure policy.