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June 2006

Announcement of a publication

European Union accession and land tenure data in Central and Eastern Europe

FAO Land Tenure Policy Series Number 1

On 1 May 2004, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia joined the European Union (EU) in its largest and most significant expansion to date. On 1 January 2007, the two accession countries, Bulgaria and Romania, are expected to join the EU, though this can be postponed until 2008. Other countries from Central and Eastern Europe are likely to be admitted to the EU in due course. Croatia has been granted the status of candidate country. A process has started that could eventually lead to EU membership for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro (including Kosovo). The EU has a long tradition of offering membership to countries with the intention of strengthening democracy and the rule of law in them, and the present expansion into Central and Eastern Europe should be seen in this context.

EU membership has profound implications for all parts of a country’s economy, as well as for its relationships with the other countries in Europe and its internal political structures. Members of the EU must be democracies governed by the rule of law and which guarantee human rights. They must have functioning market economies able to withstand the competitive pressures that EU membership brings, and governmental structures capable of discharging the wide range of obligations imposed on EU Member States. Countries joining the EU are obliged to adopt a wide range of laws in order to harmonize their legal structures with those of the EU.

This note is concerned with only one limited aspect of entry into the EU, namely, the impact on land tenure. The EU is a single market in which citizens and companies in any Member State are free to work, invest or set up businesses in any other Member State. No Member State, therefore, may place discriminatory restrictions either on where its citizens and companies are permitted to invest or on the investments made in it by citizens or companies from elsewhere in the EU. Such restrictions can also impede the free mobility of workers and businesses. Therefore, membership of the EU is not compatible with discriminatory constitutional or other restrictions on the assets that can be owned by foreigners from elsewhere in the EU.

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