Land Access and Property Rights
The ELO is founded on the belief that private property rights and a well-functioning land market are fundamental in delivering both sustainability and profitability in the European countryside.
Over the last two years, the debate on land accessibility and property rights has resurfaced in Europe. A multitude of events and developments have given rise to this debate, ranging from excessive government intervention in the price of farmland, but also the establishment of the Four Freedoms of Europe and land prices in a globally competitive market.
Most EU Member States have certain regulations regarding their national land markets. However, such measures should not disturb fundamental market mechanisms which ensure an optimally productive agricultural sector – above all, they must avoid creating political preference and clientelism. Furthermore, while Member States may set parameters, these should never interfere with European laws and freedoms. Those Member States currently involved in preferring national solutions to European principles are not acting out of strength, but rather show weakness in their distrust of both the EU and market forces.
The key to resolving land access issues should not be found in artificial manipulations of land markets or in nationalism, but rather to improve (access to) financial services and structures so that especially young and new farmers can enter the market. In doing so, existing land markets can operate more efficiently and the new rural activities may be deployed.
The ELO believes that any discussion on the scale of farming in Europe should focus on what is productive and sustainable, and not on absolute farm sizes. Current discussions on land access are dangerously mixing different technologies and preferring emotion over reason; such argumentation represents a threat to private property rights and the instincts of countryside entrepreneurs – one does not grow one’s business in a climate of uncertainty. The EU must work together with its countryside and support the best and most sustainable entrepreneurs, not perform social experiments and support unviable enterprises.
In 2017, the ELO will continue to advocate for strong property rights that are independent of the size of the agricultural or forestry holding, and welcomes any chance to expand on its point of view.