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Hungary accuses Austria of another unfriendly step

By Maddy French

Hungary has reacted angrily to a statement made by the Austrian Farm Minister yesterday when he said the European Commission had made an official promise to look into Hungary's new land law.

Changes to Hungary's farm legislation that are due to go into effect on 1 May will remove the rights of foreign farmers to use Hungarian land. Austrian Minister Andrä Rupprechter has described the new law as "unacceptable" because it will affect Austrian farmers who have paid in advance to use the land and fully complied with the regulations.

Rupprechter's counterpart in Hungary, Farm Minister Sandor Fazekas described Rupprechter as having taking "another unfriendly step" when bringing Hungarian land law to the attention of Brussels.

"This is a Hungarian issue and it is our job to settle it," he said. Fazekas has also argued that Austrian farmers have used 'pocket contracts' to circumvent Hungarian law, contracts that have now been modified in January to make it easier for Hungarian authorities to take action against invalid ownership.

"We undertake the Hungarian position and will be able to defend it in front of the Commission and at other forums if necessary," Fazekas said.

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