This year a group of Lithuanians has initiated a referendum on banning land sale to foreigners. For such a referendum to be held, the group needed to collect at least 300,000 signatures of Lithuanian citizens in three months.
In December the collection of signatures for a referendum was finished. People were told that signatures were collected against the sale of land to foreigners. As if anyone wanted to force people sell their land… I bet the majority of those who collected signatures did not even deign to explain that people were signing not only against the sale of land to foreigners, but also for having the land taken away and given to the government.
Whose interests does the ban on the free sale of land protect?
A group of people has decided that a person cannot sell his or her land to another individual unless that other individual is a Lithuanian citizen. If this initiative comes off, private land – someone’s property – will become less valuable. The owner of the land is supposed to either engage in profit-making farming, or accept it that the land is of no material use. After all, building houses or factories is restricted by other laws. If economic activity restrictions or taxes make the sale of a piece of land more worthwhile, the owner will have to find another Lithuanian citizen who might want to buy the land.
So, whose interests does this referendum protect? The interests of those who want to sell their land because they need money? Or the interests of those who can afford to buy more land?
Let us imagine an analogous situation. What if people were prohibited from selling their apartments to foreigners? Who would gain and who would lose? The owners who want to sell their apartments would lose, as the circle of potential buyers would shrink. Those who have money and want to buy apartments would win, as apartment prices would go down.
Admittedly, the analogy with the prohibition of selling apartments is not that unrealistic. What if someone wants to sell his or her house and the land that the house is built on? Selling a house is allowed, and selling the land is not? Aren’t houses next in line for a referendum?
Why is private property and business at stake?
The proposed referendum is much more than just a ban on the sale of land to foreigners. It is an initiative against private property. The same referendum suggests that forests cannot belong to individuals either, only to the government. And being a Lithuanian citizen does not even help here.
These are the masked intentions. According to the Constitution, forests of national significance belong to the state. The organizers of the referendum have paraphrased „national significance” as “national and community significance.” Can anyone find a forest – whether state or privately owned – that is not of “community significance?” Especially, when the concept of community significance is so broadly defined. Any forest can come to be regarded as that of “community significance.”
Finally, the referendum is targeted at ruining part of the Lithuanian economy. Another proposed amendment states: „The extraction and use of natural resources of state or community significance shall be determined by way of referendum.” Even a gravel pit can be of community significance. So, does it mean that digging and using it shall be decided by a referendum?
If the champions of the referendum want more issues of community significance to be addressed by way of referendum, then why not have a provision that new taxes are introduced and the existing ones increased only by way of referendum?
People’s property can be taken away with a red flag. But it can just as well be taken away with a white sheet of paper. If anyone believes that threats to freedom and property faded away with the restoration of independence and accession to NATO and the European Union, they are wrong. The opponents of freedom and private property, unlike Lenin’s sculptures, have not been dumped. Their ideas and thoughts remain the same: “Man is a fool. We will decide for him.” The present referendum initiative is precisely in this spirit.