Land acquisition powers and land ownership restrictions in European countries: evidence review

The research looks at how countries have changed their land ownership laws and the extent to which that complies with the right to property included in the European Convention on Human Rights.


1. As reported in Glenn, S., MacKessack-Leitch, J., Pollard, K., Glass, J., and McMorran, R., (2019), Investigation into the Issues Associated with Large scale and Concentrated Landownership in Scotland, Scottish Land Commission.

2. Wightman (2013) based on researcher's own estimates.

3. Cited in above, note that estimates are approximate due to datasets.

4. The Scottish Land Commission’s recommendations can be found on their website

5. The Just Transition Commission final advice can be found on the Scottish Government website

6. Sluysmans, J. et al. (eds.), (2015). Expropriation law in Europe. Deventer: Wolters Kluwer.

7. Detail on the Agricultural Orientation Law 1960 ‘ Loi n° 60-808 du 5 août 1960 d'orientation agricole’(in French) is available

8. Translation provided by SAFER; ‘French Land Use and Rural Settlement Corporation’

9. As above, at Article 1.

10. Butterwick, M., & Rolfe, E.N. (1965). Structural Reform in French Agriculture the Work of the SAFERs. Journal of Agricultural Economics, 16 (4), 548–554.

11. Vigifoncier is an online information service offered by SAFER, and can be found on their website

12. See further the work of CETIAC Compensation et Études d’Impacts Agricoles – Conseil

13. For a discussion of the compatibility of SAFER with European Union law see Teodoru. G. (2022). Restrictions on the sale of agricultural land. Controversies National Law – Union Law (sic). Perspectives of Law and Public Administration, 11(1), 142–156. Drawing on the Ospelt (Austria) case (Case C-452/01 Ospelt, paragraph 52.) she concludes that; ‘The right of pre-emption in favor of farmers is considered a proportionate restriction on the free movement of capital and less restrictive than a ban on sales to non-farmers.’

14. A full list of signatures and ratifications Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) is available.

15. An example of this is available on French property website “SAFER Property Pre-Emption Annuled”,, 9th July 2019

16. AEIAR. (2015). Status of agricultural land market regulation in Europe: Policies and instruments. Association Européenne des Institutions d’Aménagement Rural. Available here: aeiar_land-market-regulation_en.pdf (

17. Piet, L. et al. (2012). How do agricultural policies influence farm size inequality? The example of France. European Review of Agricultural Economics, 39(1), 5–28.

18. Sanglier, M. et al. (2017). Policies and instruments of land market regulations: The SAFER, French land agencies. Terre de Liens:

19. Ralli, T. & K. Weckström. (2015). Real Property Law and Procedure in the European Union, National Report Finland.

20. Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The special status of the Åland Islands.

21. See further Joenniemi, P. (2014). The Åland Islands: Neither Local nor Fully Sovereign. Cooperation and Conflict. 49.1, 80–97.

22. A translation of this legislation can be found:

23. An account of the legal history is available here (in Finnish):

24. The right of domicile (Åländsk hembygdsrätt), also known as Ålandic regional citizenship, is part of the Ålandic Autonomy Act (Självstyrelselag (1991:71)) and is further regulated in law in the Landscape Act (2015:99) on Åland homestead law and the Landscape Act on homestead law proceedings (2015:100). In Finnish the legislation is Landskapslagen (2015:99) om åländsk hembygdsrätt and Landskapslagen (2015:100) om hembygdsrättsförfaranden.

25. See Hepburn, E. (2014). Forging autonomy in a unitary state: The Åland Islands in Finland. Comparative European Politics 12, 468–487; Öst, Heidi. (2016). The Concept of the Åland Islands’ Regional Citizenship and Its Impact on the Inclusion of Migrants. European Yearbook of Minority Issues 13(1), 220–232; Simolin, S. (2018). The Aims of Åland and Finland Regarding a New Act on the Autonomy of Åland. Journal of Autonomy and Security Studies 2.1.

26. See generally Karlsson, A. (2009). Sub-National Island Jurisdictions as Configurations of Jurisdictional Powers and Economic Capacity: Nordic Experiences from Åland, Faroes and Greenland, Island Studies Journal 4(2): 139-162. For further background see Dosch, Jörn, and Malvina Lakatos. (2020) South Tyrol and Åland: Collective Identity in the Interplay of Old and New Minorities. Studies in ethnicity and nationalism 20.2, 188–207.

27. Statistics Finland. (2007). From villa ownership to national leisure-time activity.

28. Engel Voelkers. (2021). Legal guide to Lex Koller.

29. Including the Swiss state law ‘On Acquisition of Real Estate by Foreign Individuals 1983’, full name in German ‘Bundesgesetz über den Erwerb von Grundstücken durch Personen im AuslandLegislation available in German.
See also accompanying ‘Federal Ordinance on the Acquisition of Real Property by Non-Swiss Residents, SR 211.412.411’ in German ‘Verordnung über den Erwerb von Grundstücken durch Personen im Ausland (BewV) vom 1. Oktober 1984 (Stand am 1. März 2021)’ available here:

30. See Swiss Federal Office of Justice Guidelines

31. See Hilber, C. and O. Schöni. (2016). Housing policies in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, in Yoshino, Naoyuki and Helble, Matthias, (eds.) The Housing Challenge in Emerging Asia: Options and Solutions. Tokyo, Japan: Asian Development Bank Institute pp. 210-259

32. BV 7a (Second Home Initiative – “Zweitwohnungsinitiative”; SR 101). Ordinance concerning Second Homes of 22 August 2012 (“Verordnung über Zweitwohnungen vom 22 August 2012” (SR 702).

33. Thomson Reuters Practical Law. (2019). The Swiss Lex Koller: more relevant than ever.

34. Engel & Völkers. Lex Koller: What you need to know.

35. See Swiss Federal Office of Justice. (2009, updated 2021). Acquisition of real estate by persons abroad: Guidelines, at s.5.

36. As above.

37. See Von Thomas Buomberger. (2018). "Überfremdung": History of a Swiss term. Blogpost. (In German)

38. Policy objectives for restrictions placed by local authorities (cantons)

39. Legal Comment from Pestalozzi Law. (2021) New attempt to tighten rules on foreign real property investments fails in Parliament, 26th March 2021. See also; “ Federal government drops plan to tighten rules on foreign real property investments”, 29th June 2018.

40. Borowiecki, K.J. (2012) Dynamics of a protected housing market: The case of Switzerland. Urban Studies, 49(14): 3195-3210.

41. Stricker, Luzius. (2022). Restricting the Construction of Second Homes in Tourist Destinations: An Effective Intervention Towards Sustainability? Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Volkswirtschaft und Statistik 158.1, 1–16.

42. New Zealand Government website overview of Overseas investment tests

43. As of July 2022 New Zealand is a party to: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966;
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966;
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965;
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979;
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984;
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989; UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006. It is not a party to:
International Convention on Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers, 1990; International Convention for the Protection of Persons from Enforced Disappearance, 2010.

44. New Zealand Government, Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand. Benefit to New Zealand Test Guidance

45. South African Government, Regulation of Agricultural Land Holdings Bill: Draft

46. Lexology 2021, “Expropriation without compensation - it is not the end of the road and is still on the table”;

47. Kirsten, J. & Sihlobo, W. 2021. “How a land reform agency could break South Africa’s land redistribution deadlock”, The Conversation.

48. Sluysmans, J. et al. (eds.), (2015). Expropriation law in Europe. Wolters Kluwer.

49. See Verbist, Stijn, (2015). Expropriation Law in Belgium, in Sluysmans, J. et al. (eds.), (2015). Expropriation law in Europe. Wolters Kluwer; See also DLA Piper, (2017).

50. DLA Piper source

51. Mateeva, Ekaterina, (2015). “Expropriation Law in Bulgaria” in Sluysmans, J. et al. (eds.) (2015). Expropriation law in Europe. Wolters Kluwer; ECHR Case Profile for Bulgaria.

52. OECD. (2021). Decentralisation and Regionalisation in Bulgaria: Towards Balanced Regional Development.

53. Pavlíček, Václav and Jirí Šouša, (2015). “Expropriation Law in the Czech Republic” in Sluysmans, J. et al. (eds.), (2015). Expropriation law in Europe, Wolters Kluwer; See also ECHR Case Profile for Czech Republic

54. Ordinance no. 414/2013 Sb.

55. De Witt, Siefried, Corinna Durinke and Maria Geismann, (2015). “Expropriation Law in Germany” in Sluysmans, J. et al. (eds.), (2015). Expropriation law in Europe, Wolters Kluwer. Wolters Kluwer; See also Palmstorfer, N. (2017). Austrian Constitutional Court: Vegan Landowner Must Tolerate Hunting on his Property. ICL Journal, 11(1) and; The Guardian, 29 Sept 2021, “Berlin’s vote to take properties from big landlords could be a watershed moment”.

56. See;

57. See Section 95.1. of the German ‘Baugesetzbuch’ i.e. ‘Building Code’.

58. Sluysmans, J.A.M.A. and Regien de Graaff, (2015) “Expropriation Law in the Netherlands” in Sluysmans, J. et al. (eds.), (2015). Expropriation law in Europe. Deventer: Wolters Kluwer.

59. The Guardian, 9 Sept 2021. “Netherlands proposes radical plans to cut livestock numbers by almost a third.”

60. See further; Holtslag-Broekhof, S. (2018). Urban land readjustment: Necessary for effective urban renewal? Analysing the Dutch quest for new legislation. Land Use Policy, 77; Holtslag-Broekhof, S. et al., (2018). Exploring the valuation of compulsory purchase compensation. Journal of European Real Estate Research, 11(2).

61. Subsequently cited in Jahn and Others v Germany (Applications 46720/99, 72203/01 and 72552/01) 2005.

62. See further McCarthy, F. (2007). Deprivation without compensation: the exceptional circumstance of Jahn v Germany. European Human Rights Law Review, 3, 295–303.

63. Sluysmans, J. et al. (eds.) (2015). Expropriation law in Europe. Wolters Kluwer.

64. See for example Lindheim and Others v Norway (Applications 13221/08 and 2139/10) 2012 and Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v Hungary (Application 18030/11) 2016.



Back to top