The Lithuanian example


Here is an unconceivable fact for Romanian present-day politicians: Lithuania will organise a national referendum that will decide whether or not it is possible to enforce now the EU provision of selling farmland also to foreign citizens. Like Romania, Lithuania is a member of the EU and, after a respite granted by the Union, is now asked to enforce the provision about the free trade of farmland. The motivation of the Lithuanian referendum over this issue is clear and well justified: once it opens the way of selling farmland to foreigners, they will be favoured to buy large surfaces. Why favoured? Because in Lithuania, like in Romania, the price of farmland is very accessible to foreign investors, because the EUR surpasses by far the national currency. Because of this inequality of financial status appears the risk that large surfaces of land are removed from the national agricultural fund and become foreign properties.

Similar arguments were used by other countries too, such as Hungary and Bulgaria, for postponing on undetermined time the enforcement of the respective provision of the EU about selling their farmland to international entities. In the case of most countries from Eastern Europe, the development of national economies has not reached yet the phase of adopting the EUR as national currency. When these countries acceded to its structures, the EU appreciated that the adoption of the single currency by the respective states will be possible on January 1, 2014. The economic-social crisis that hit Europe meanwhile annulled this prediction and the enforcement of the respective provision is appreciated as inaccessible to the economies of the respective European states. Hence the logical conclusion that the sale of farmland to foreign investors is possible only after the adoption of the EUR as national currency. Among the countries that have not adopted the EUR yet, the only which accepted the sale of its farmland to foreign citizens is Romania. Although the difference of value between its national currency and the EUR is much higher than what exists in Lithuania.
This value discrepancy between EUR and RON favours the alienation of our agricultural land, whose actual price of sale amounts to maximum 1,000 EUR/hectare, while in western countries the price reaches as high as 10,000 EUR/ha. This is an immense financial difference that becomes an insurmountable obstacle for the possible Romanian investors, as well as a gate wide open for the so-called “strategic investors” from abroad. This conclusion already is an attitude confirmed over the last 10-15 years, when the surface of Romanian farmland that was removed from the national circuit after being sold to foreigners sums up to about 2 million hectares. Why removed from the national circuit? Because their new owners either keep these lands fallow waiting to sell them for “maximum profit” when their price goes up, or cultivate them with plants prohibited in other European countries, or – at best – plant them with current cereals whose financial profit is totally exported to the countries of origin of these so-called “strategic investors.” The amplification of these incorrect practices attests to the fact that Romania is sometimes treated as a quasi-colony.
And this negative treatment granted to Romania first results from the decisions of Romanian politicians. Since the end of year 1989 and the beginning of 1990, several wrong decisions were passed, including one that disbanded the former agricultural cooperatives, instead of turning them into modern cooperative farming units. This led to the atomisation of former agricultural cooperatives into more than 3 million separate plots with surfaces under 1 hectare each. The “European normality” invoked by Romanian governments since December 1989 should have determined our rulers to integrate the former collective farms into a system of agricultural cooperatives similar to those existing in western Europe, USA and many other countries.
The rejection of agricultural cooperatives started the collapse of the Romanian industry that was manufacturing tractors, harvesters and other farming machines, as well as that of the irrigation system, research institutes in this field and other related enterprises. The consequences of these tragedies could be felt even during the rich agricultural years like 2013. When the small farmer, who makes the majority in rural areas, has nothing to do but sell his crop right after harvest, at a derisory price. Why does this happen? He does not have the storage capacity that would allow it to keep the crop until later time, because the many grain silos that existed in the past were fraudulently removed from the agricultural circuit, when they were not fraudulently sold to private owners who now charge prohibitive storage fees. The Romanian small farmer, which forms the majority in rural areas, is thus pushed into poverty. He is forced to sell his crop immediately after harvesting, at prices that are kept small also with the contribution of the mafia of agricultural interlopers that join hands in the action of keeping prices down, so they can profit by exporting wheat.
And the tragedy of the Romanian farmer keeps amplifying, as he is deprived of modern agricultural tools, selected and productive seeds, herbicides, pesticides and – above all – irrigations. As with agricultural silos, or the factories producing agricultural machines, the irrigation system that covered 4 million hectares in the ‘80s of last century was destroyed by the fragmentation of land in tiny agricultural plots. Under the pressure of these multilateral collapses, the small and medium-sized Romanian farmer is now forced to sell his small farm, an action also undermined by the derisory price of agricultural land in Romania, which allows only the foreign “strategic investors” to massively buy farmland that sometimes they do not even intend to plant. This phenomenon of alienation keeps amplifying since January 1st 2014, when the right of foreigners to buy arable land in Romania is unlimited.
This allows the rulers of Hungary – a country that does not accept selling its own land to foreign citizens – to buy land in Romania, especially in the regions with majority ethnic Hungarian population. Why? Because, when the much-expected federalisation of Romania will take place – the respective lands can be practically annexed to Hungary. The peril of breaking Romania in pieces, as its enemies wish, begins precisely from the ignorance and disinterest of Romanian politicians toward the difficulties which confront the small Romanian farmer.