Harsher requirements for buyers of farmlands «protectionist» – Swedish ambassador

The bill adopted by the Saeima last week, providing for harsher state language requirements for foreigners who buy farmland in Latvia, will negatively affect Latvia’s further development, said Swedish Ambassador to Latvia Henrik Landerholm in an interview with LETA.

The ambassador said that politicians of each country may freely make decisions about further development, still, in this case the decision affects a broader number of people than only farmers and foresters with good Latvian-language skills.

Landerholm is sure that discrimination of other potential farmland owners, both individuals and companies, will leave a negative impact on Latvia’s further development.

"Latvia’s agriculture and forestry sectors need foreign investments, new impulses and competition in order to present good results. Such protectionist decisions bring along risks to the overall investment climate in Latvia," the Swedish ambassador said.

The diplomat said that the bill will not leave a big impact on Sweden as such, but it will cause problems to many Swedish nationals and forestry companies that have been working in Latvia for years.

"Swedish forestry companies are helping Latvia’s forestry sector to develop, bringing valuable skills and knowledge, as well as a long-term rational forestry tradition based on Sweden’s experience that creates high added value and will ensure revenues to Latvia for many years," the ambassador said.

He also said that Swedish forest owners directly and indirectly ensure jobs to many people in Latvia, including the eastern region of Latgale where the economic situation is very poor.

As reported, the law endorsed by Saeima ups the state language command requirements on foreigners who buy farmland in Latvia. If necessary, they will also have to present their plans for a land plot they have acquired, in Latvian, to municipal officials and answer any questions they may have.

In April President Raimonds Vejonis returned the legislation to Saeima for a revision, describing the draft as contradictory. In the original version of the bill, foreigners buying farmland in Latvia were required to have basic command of Latvian (A level), while the new version states that foreigners buying farmland in Latvia will have to have better command of the language corresponding to level B (medium level), Grade 2.

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