Report: Hungary buys real estate in Lendava without Slovenia's knowledge

Ljubljana, 16 February - The online portal Oštro has reported that Hungary bought a house in Slovenia's Lendava in 2019 and later handed it over to the umbrella organisation of the Hungarian minority for free use, with an option for its premises to also be used for consular purposes. This was done without a required certificate of reciprocity being acquired from Slovenia.

The house in Glavna Ulica 7, which is more than a hundred years old, is housing the premises of the Pomurje Hungarian Self-Governing Ethnic Community (PMSNS) since last year.

The building was purchased in the summer of 2019 for EUR 750,000 by the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which last year handed it over to the PMSNS. The organisation can use it free of charge and for an indefinite period of time, Oštro reported on Thursday.

The Hungarian government concluded a user agreement with the minority organisation in July 2022, with the contract stipulating that the Hungarian consular service must be allowed to use the representation premises free of charge.

The Slovenian government learned about the purchase only on 11 January this year after being asked about it by Oštro. Until then, the Hungarian ownership of the building had been registered in the local land register for as many as three years.

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry did not know, either, that occasional consular activity is also planned to take place in the premises used by the minority organisation.

In order for the ownership to be registered, the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was supposed to acquire a certificate of reciprocity from the Slovenian ministry, but failed to do so.

In accordance with the relevant Slovenian law, a foreign country can acquire the ownership right to real estate in Slovenia if it presents a certificate of reciprocity issued by the Foreign Ministry.

The ministry has thus asked Hungary for additional clarifications and summoned the Hungarian ambassador in Ljubljana.

Ambassador Andor Ferenc David told Oštro that neither the embassy nor the consulate general in Lendava performed diplomatic or consular activities in the building in Lendava.

The Slovenian ministry confirmed for the web portal today that a foreign country can buy real estate in Slovenia only for diplomatic and consular activities, and that it must obtain consent from the home state for the ownership to be registered.

This interpretation of the relevant article of the reciprocity act has also been checked with the State Attorney's Office, which has confirmed it, the ministry added.

After Hungary purchased the house, Ferenc Horvath, the MP in the Slovenian National Assembly representing the Hungarian minority and the president of PMSNS at the time, also moved his MP office to the building last year.

The National Assembly which pays the rent for the office, did not know about the Hungarian ownership of the premises either, as the annex to the lease contract was signed with the PMSNS.

© STA, 2023