Financial Services: European Commission opens an infringement procedure against LATVIA on investor restrictions for agricultural land

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 29 april 2015.

The European Commission has today decided to formally request Latvia to submit its observations on its law regulating the acquisition of agricultural land. The law contains several provisions which, under EU law, may be considered to restrict the free movement of capital and freedom of establishment. Restrictions on these basic Treaty freedoms may be allowed under EU-law if their aim is to protect an overriding public interest; however, they must comply with the principles of non-discrimination and proportionality. While Member States are permitted to set their own rules to promote rural development, to preserve rural communities, to keep land in agricultural use and avoid speculative pressure on land prices, this must be in line with EU law.

In the Commission's view, the provisions in question go beyond what is necessary to attain the legitimate objectives of the law. These restrictions include for instance the obligation for potential buyers of agricultural land to have appropriate professional qualifications and to not hold any tax debt. The Commission considers that the law should aim to strike a better balance between the different fundamental interests at stake.

Today's infringement procedure covers only acquisitions by EU nationals and by companies established in the EU. Member States may, under certain conditions, maintain restrictions on investments from countries outside the EU.

The Commission's request takes the form of a letter of formal notice, the first stage of infringement procedure under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Latvia has two months to respond.

The Commission's action against Latvia follows recent action against Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia (IP/15/4673), where derogations granted under the 2003 Accession Treaty expired in January or May 2014.

Further information on free movement of capital rules can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/capital/framework/index_en.htm

On the April infringement package decisions, MEMO/15/4871

On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12

For more information on infringement procedures:

http://ec.europa.eu/eu_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm

IP/15/4877

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