Updated 11.32am with farmers' reaction

A landmark Constitutional Court judgement which found the law on rural leases to be unconstitutional has been welcomed by developers, while farmers said may cause them serious problems. 

The Constitutional Court judgement earlier this week found that the Agricultural Leases (Reletting) Act breached the Constitution. It declared that the law, which effectively grants tenants of agricultural leases an indefinite right of renewal, breaches the owners’ fundamental rights.

The Developers' Association on Wednesday called on the government to stop these injustices.

"A serious government is morally and legally bound to protect all its
citizens from any form of injustice, even if these happen to be against owners of land.

"During the past years, the government continued to discriminate against land owners and looked the other way despite being found in breach of the highest law of the country, the Constitution, and the European Convention of Human Rights," the MDA said.

It said these outdated laws were enacted decades ago in a completely different
economic scenario and they now need to reflect current realities.

"While it is not fair that tenants are not protected, the same yardstick should apply to landowners, who lease out their properties to third parties. Unfortunately, so far, all Maltese administrations have ignored several appeals made by the MDA, including the need to tackle injustices concerning the pre-1995 rent laws," it said.

Court decision could cause problems, farmers say

In a contrasting reaction, the Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi (Active Farmers' Association) said the court decision was a historic precedent which may cause serious problems in the agriculture sector, with farmers ending up without the land they tilled.

They pointed out that the European Court in other cases had said that fundamental rights may be restricted, such as in the case of farmland, to avoid property speculation and to safeguard rural communities and food production.

The association urged the government to react to the court decision and the new reality by helping to establish property prices,by helping farmers to buy the lands and by the provision of fiscal incentives to those landlords who keep their land for agricultural use.

The Planning Authority and the Environment Authority were urged to be increasingly vigilant to protect the rural environment.  

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